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Are parent's responsible for their child being obese

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2012 Category: Health
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,981 times Debate No: 22591
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
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Do parents have control over their child being obese? I do not believe so. I believe that parents while their child is growing up try to make the right decisions by feeding their child healthy nutritious foods but once they are able to eat on their own, it is in their control. Many parents let their children eat cookies, chips and unhealthy foods for dinner which is a huge contributing factor to obesity. However, it isn't up to their parents to watch every piece of their food that goes into their mouth. Once the child goes to school and spends more time outside the house than in the house it is up to them to eat healthy. In addition, when the child is old enough to drive they have access to fast food restaurants and so on.


The question that you are presenting is an interesting one. The answer to the question depends on how strident you are with your definitions. Sure, parents are not responsible for every single action that the child makes, but to say that they have absolutely no responsibility is to say that they have no influence or obligation.

Of course, parents are not the only influence the child has. However, is the parent responsible for ANY of the child's behavior? To say that the parent bears absolutely no responsibility for destructive behavior assumes that all parents are equally 'good' parents, and that there is no discernable difference between a parent that violently abuses their children and one which raises them lovingly and adequately cares for their needs. You are, in fact, saying that children are morally autonomous from birth and parents are not responsible for parenting - an internally insonsistent statement which ignores what a 'parent' is and what responsibilities and obligations come with that role.

If a parent raises a child that rapes, murders, steals, abuses drugs and alcohol, or otherwise behaves in an immoral, criminal way, to what extent is the child's behavior the responsibility of the parent? The answer lies not with the fact that they are his parents, but in how the parent raised the child. To find that out, we look to the conduct of the child, as that is the single greatest indicator of how that child was raised.

The answer to the question can be answered by asking the three questions:
1) Can the lifestyle choices of the parent influence the lifestyle choices of the child?
Yes, obesity is correlated with parental obesity and lifestyle choices *. Obese parents are much more likely to have obese children.

2) Can obesity be prevented or aleviated by parents, in altering the parent's approach to parenting or otherwise working toward that goal?
Yes, according to the study "The Relationship Between Parent and Child Self-Reported Adherence and Weight Loss", parents playing an active role in child's health and well-being have shown to have a a measurable effect of reducing childhood obesity.**

3) Can childhood and adult obesity be caused by parental neglect and abuse?
Yes. Obesity is directly correlated with childhood sexual abuse***, usually by a parent figure, and this correlation is well established.

While there may be examples of children who became obese despite outstanding parenting, or children who grew to be healthy with abusive, obese parents, the correlations are clear: poor parenting skills can lead to childhood obesity, and excellent parenting skills can prevent it. To say otherwise is to ignore the responsibilities and power of influence a parent has over the child.

* Wrotniak, Epstein, Paluch, and Roemmich -
** Gould, The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry -
*** Gustafson and Sarwer, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine -

Debate Round No. 1


My question is asking if parents are responsible for their child being obese. Not if the parent is responsible for destructive behaviors. Being obese has nothing to do with being destructive. If parents are "good" or violently bad to their children have nothing to do with the outcome of their children being obese or not.
To answer your question "If a parent raises a child that rapes, murders, steals, abuses drugs and alcohol or otherwise behaves immoral, criminal way to what extend is the child's behavior the responsibility of the parent?"
-> You are contradicting yourself. Exactly the parents don't have an effect on a child if they turn into a rapist, murderer or OBESE. You do not raise your child to become any of these it just happens. The parent has no effect if their child rapes someone they do not brainwash them into that kind of behavior. Just like they don't brain wash their child to be obese and think being obese is the right thing. IT JUST HAPPENS. They have some influence when they are younger because they can not feed themselves until they are a certain age. Once they can eat themselves it is up to them to get the nutritional value they need. Parents can't watch their every move.

1. Can the lifestyle choices of the parent influence the lifestyle choices of the child?
Absolutely, but to a certain extent. As a child I ate whatever I wanted to and if dinner was served and if I didn't like it I would eat the sides or waited for dessert. The parent makes whatever dinner they feel like making that day. If they decide to make something unhealthy the child still has the opportunity to say no. Once they can act on their own, speak on their own and eat on their own they control what goes into their mouth resulting in the outcome as they get older.

2. Can obesity be prevented or alleviated by parents, in altering the parent's approach to parenting or otherwise working toward that goal?
Just because you are a bad or good parent has no effect on the child being obese. Even if you are saying a parent is "BAD" it would be the opposite of being obese. The child would then be malnourished.

3. Can childhood and adult obesity be cause by parental neglect and abuse?
Parent neglect would leave the children hungry and fend for themselves. If they don't have a job to provide for themselves how are they going to eat? If they do have a job, they make their own money and can decide what food they want to eat. If there is a parent home or not the child will most likely eat fast food because it is easy access for them and cheaper.

Overall, I still stand that parents do not have a direct effect on the obesity of their child. It is something the child controls.


I have provided information and references which explicitly shows how the behavior of parents directly influences the child in three separate areas, and you have responded with claims to the contrary, but have not presented any evidence to support it.

In fact, you have stated some things which are demonstrably false, such as your insistence that destructive behavior (and poor nutritional choices IS destructive behavior) "just happens", as if the child grows up in a vacuum. This is absurd, as you are insisting that one of the most established correlations is sociology doesn't exist. You also defined being a "BAD" parent as not feeding them enough ("the opposite of being obese"), when both extremes still qualify as poor nutrition.

How the parent raises a child, especially in the early years, plays a very important role in the child's development. Obesity and other forms of self-destructive behavior are clearly correlated with abuse and neglect. To deny the data is to deny reality.

Debate Round No. 2


For my reasoning why children are responsible for their own obesity are for various reasons. I am taking a developmental psychology class in which we discussed the major factors that contribute to childhood obesity. Only one believed that it was due to the parents. We all discussed how the parent isn't present for most of the day when a child is at school or having play dates. When a child is at school it is their job to eat their own food. YOU wanted some "specific" research here is quotes from my text book which helped me develop my opinion that I believe childhood obesity is their own contributing factor and has little to do with their parents. I understand your research is to hold grounds for your beliefs, now here is mine.

"Social aspects also affect children's weight problems. Children need to control their own eating. Poor diets also contribute to obesity. School lunch programs have sometimes contributed to the problem by failing to provide nutritious options. Also given how energetic children this age can be, it is surprising that a major factor in childhood obesity is a lack of exercise. School-age children tend to engage in relatively little exercise and are not particularly fit. In part because many schools have reduced the time available for recess and gym classes."

"As childhood obesity rises, the popular fast food chains, and reliance on technology rise as well. "

This goes to show that there are contributing factors of obesity. There are fast food chains and a huge technology issue with children recently. They are always on the computer and being inactive. These choices are MADE by the children not by the parent. The children make decisions of what they are going to do and how active they are going to be, or how inactive they are going to be. At school, they can either participate in recess or just do nothing. As kids they should be running around and be energetic but they are lacking that motivation. That isn't the parents fault they can't control if they are active at recess or not because they are not present. My main point is that parents are not present in a child's life as much as they used to be. And obesity is rising because kids are unaware of nutritious food that will motivate them to have more energy and be active.

And to add to your statement about denying facts is like denying reality. They're are two different sides to every story. I believe and others believe that children cause their own obesity after a certain age. Yes parent's are responsible until the child is able to eat on their own. I never saw a parent FORCE feed their children every meal. It is simply impossible. Parents now a days are always working and trying to support their family and they barely have time to eat let alone watch their kids to see what their consuming. That is why it is up to the child to eat for themselves and decide what food they are going to consume.

"In 2002, forty-four percent of families with children had two employed parents either full- or part-time"

Feldman, R. S. (2011). Discovering the Life Span (2nd Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


I understand what you are trying to say, and I agree, to an extent, but I think you're missing the point, which can be summed up with your own statement:

You said "parents are not present in a child's life as much as they used to be. And obesity is rising because kids are unaware of nutritious food that will motivate them to have more energy and be active."

You're absolutely right. Parents are not spending enough time with their children, they are not teaching them about proper nutrition, they are not teaching them about the need for exercise or encouraging them to exercise, and they taking the easy way out - putting their kids in front of the TV, giving them video games and cell phones and computers, and blaming the child for not being motivated.

The issue is a very simple one: Are parents responsible for spending time with their children? YES! Are parents responsible for teaching their children about nutrition and exercise? YES! Are parents responsible for encouraging their children to make wise choices? YES! Is is possible that a parent can do an outstanding job of parenting and still raise an obese child? Of course, but it is completely irresponsible to then claim that parents are "not responsible" at all.

In short, parents are responsible for PARENTING, something which you seam to be convinced is somebody else's problem.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by socratesone 6 years ago
I agree, wilsun. That's, of course, what I expected when I came here - brutal honesty. I wanted to learn a few things. Unfortunately, so far my experience has been people demonstrating loyalty to ideas rather than reason. Things haven't changed much since Galileo - people feel more comfortable believing what they believed yesterday, so they ignore what they learn today. It can get a little frustrating, as I'm always looking for a errors in my thinking, trying to get myself more in line with objective universe, and am disappointed that so many people just look for ways to twist their perception of the objective universe so that it matches their existing perceptions. Kind of sad.
Posted by wilsun007 6 years ago
That sounded really dumb. By "agreeing," I was thinking of voting and commenting on who has the better argument.
Posted by wilsun007 6 years ago
People on need to stop agreeing with the side they believe in. In this case, I believe that Pro completely wins in logical appeal.
Posted by socratesone 6 years ago
I consider "responsibility" to be based on actions that the parent has control over. Genetics are not the "responsibility" of the parent as they little control over it (outside of who they choose as a mate, I suppose).
Posted by Doulos1202 6 years ago
surprised Pro didnt argue genetics.
Posted by frozen_eclipse 6 years ago
In my opinion con has the greatest appeal in this debate. Parents may have an influence during childhood and adolesence but later that person will make their own decisions and the parents cannot be blamed for there childs decision
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