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Do parents discriminate against their fat kids?

This seems like such an obvious concept to me. After all, parents are people who grew up in our fat-hating society, so of course that will have some effect on how they treat their fat children. This video from the Today show touches on these issues but despite my gut feeling that discrimination is obviously happening with parents and fat kids, the study they're discussing seems a little problematic. I'm not entirely convinced that you can determine special treatment based on one factor, like how much money the parents gave their kids to buy a car. It makes me wonder if the study took into account money the parents had spent (as my parents did) on therapists, nutritionists, diet plans and fat camp to correct their child's fatness. Maybe they already spent the car fund on the very important cause of shrinking little Susie's fat ass. Or maybe they don't want her skinny siblings to think that they care about Susie more because they keep spending wads of cash on her. So Susie gets to go to ridiculously expensive fat camp and her sister gets to buy a nicer car.

Anyway, it would have been nice if they allowed more time at the end of the segment for the experts to talk (Dear Today show, here's a tip: don't book two experts if you don't have time for an actual discussion), because some solid points were being made about parenting fat kids. Take a look...what do you think?

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withoutscene's picture
October 7th, 2010 | Link | Yeah, the experts were

Yeah, the experts were actually pretty good. Matt Lauer on the other hand, might make me shoot fireballs out of my eyesockets.

I agree that the implications of the study are at best minimum. I haven't looked at the abstract, but I wonder if they control for socio-economic status. There's a study Rebecca Puhl refers to in a lit review where parents give less money to fat kids for college. I think that study is, at very least, a more likely scenario for discrimination.

DeeLeigh's picture
October 8th, 2010 | Link | I remember reading the study

The video was interesting. I'm not surprised that parents would discriminate. Given today's climate around weight, they are blamed if one or more of their kids are fat. They're assumed to be feeding the kids junk food, not encouraging them to be active, etc. - even when a family has some fat kids and some thin kids and they're all being raised the same way. Fat children reflect poorly on their parents, and it's not surprising that the parents would be resentful. I was acutely aware of that when I was growing up - that my parents thought that I made them look bad.

Also, I recall reading that older study about fat kids - especially fat girls, if I remember correctly - getting less money from their parents for University, and if there's bias at play, it's very very sad.

Fat women need every advantage they can get to succeed in the world. They're going to face discrimination in their work lives and may want to jettison any requirement for high earning power in potential partners (since it's a relatively unimportant characteristic, all told). Fat girls really have to plan to be financially independent, and a good education can be an important part of that.

CarrieP's picture
October 8th, 2010 | Link | If you watch the British PSA

If you watch the British PSA videos, it's no wonder parents would give their fat kids a harder time than the thin ones. In most parent-directed media on fatness, the message is that childhood fatness is the parents' fault and responsibility to fix. We're basically setting up a toxic situation for fat kids and their parents by badgering the parents so they will badger their kids. The more the badgering doesn't work (as if it ever does), the more vitriol gets lobbied at the kid for 'not cooperating'. The gulf of distrust between the fat child and her parents continues to grow as the child does, and maybe she turns to food or something else unhealthy for comfort because she can't trust Mom and Dad. This is not the way to raise healthy kids.

rebelle October 12th, 2010 | Link | Does it cross fat-haters'

Does it cross fat-haters' minds that, in instances where fat kids have slender siblings, that MAYBE it isn't because of what the fat kids are eating/how much they're exercising? Do they really think that, say, two sisters, one fat, one thin, live dramatically different lifestyles *in the same house????*

Alyssa October 15th, 2010 | Link | Fat-Hating Parents

Yours is an excellent point. And I think it points to the issue of inheritability. One child may inherit genes from parents that give them a particulat metabolism, body build, etc. while another child, in the same family, inherits different traits. This was exactly the case in the family of one of my cousins. She was fat from birth while her brother was thin. I often visited their home, and so I saw that they were both active and both ate in a similar manner. However, the sad part was that my aunt, somewhat fat herself, started chiding my cousin at about 5 or 6, telling her to eat less, to slim down, although my aunt herself was never able to do so. It got worse as my cousin grew older. At the dinner table, my aunt gave dessert to her brother, but told her she could have none as she needed to lose weight. My aunt withheld snacks from my cousin while giving them to her brother. Perhaps my aunt thought she was helping my cousin. On the other hand, perhaps she was transferring her own internalized fat-hatred to her daughter. Fast forward to today: my cousin is still fat after many diets, and her brother, who still eats whatever he wants, is still thin.

richie79's picture
October 25th, 2010 | Link | Maybe, in the same way that

Maybe, in the same way that some parents try to live vicariously through their children by pressuring them to be the lawyer, football star or ballet dancer they were never able to be, others measure success in terms of thinness. Or, and possibly more understandably, don't want their kids subjected as they were to all the cruelty of a fat-phobic world.

Either way, the tragedy is that if said parents were to instead support their fat children by challenging fat stigma, impressing upon them that it is not a crime to be fat and that no-one deserves to be discriminated against for it, we could have the beginnings of a major social shift.

And I suppose that's exactly why the powerful in society, through the mass media, are so invested in fostering self-loathing amongst fat people and perpetuating the Fantasy of Being Thin, which is then passed down between the generations.

I would certainly agree with the point already made that it is pure prejudice which leads people to accept the tall child of tall parents as genetically inevitable but condemn the fat child of fat parents as having inherited nothing but 'bad' dietary habits and an aversion to activity.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

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