Childhood obesity is affecting the lives of numerous adolescents all across the United States, up to one out of every five children are overweight or obese. Many people including health care professionals, policy experts and parents are concerned about the high rising rates of obesity among U.S. children. Obesity is a greater than 20 percent increase over healthy body weight, based on body mass index, a ratio of weight to height associated with body fat. (Berk, 2008, p 197) According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of children who are overweight or obese in over the past three decades has doubled, from 15 percent to nearly 30 percent today. The amount of children who are obese has tripled from 5 to 15 percent. (U.S. Department of) The causes of childhood obesity involve a numerous amount of factors. Overweight in children and adolescents, is generally caused by a lack of physical activity and/or unhealthy eating patterns. Heredity accounts for a tendency to gain weight, while low-income families, bad parental feeding practices also contribute to childhood obesity. (Berk, 2008, p 197) Obesity has a various amount of impacts on a child’s health and has been linked to several diseases and conditions in adults. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, blood pressure, early maturation, hyperlipidemia and type- 2 diabetes, can be followed from childhood to adulthood. (Burbank,1978) Although the physical effects of childhood obesity are very serious, childhood obesity also impacts on psychological and emotional effects. The psychological damage to a child suffering from obesity can be very traumatic. In school, obese children are often socially isolated and may be presented with constant ridicule, from peers and adults. This causes emotional, social, and causes them to have more of a low self-esteem and more confidence issues as well as other psychological problems than their normal-weight peers. (Berk, 2008, p 196)Since unhappiness and overeating contribute to each other, the child remains overweight. Addressing and revising eating patterns and behaviors, with help from an obese child’s family, helps treat the disorder. (Berk, 2008, p 196)
Eating habits linked to childhood obesity can be explained by social learning theory. The most influential social learning theory, is composed by, Albert Bandura, a psychologist from Canada. His social learning theory consists of a "theory that emphasizes the role of modeling, otherwise known as imitation or observational learning, in the development of behavior.” (Burbank,2008) Social theory is an ongoing interaction that exists among the child, their environment and their behavior, the initial introduction to food and eating habits are vital in life habits. Once fat cells increase (due to genetic disposition such as early childhood peer motivated eating patterns and later overeating) they never deacrese. (Burbank,2008) The condition of an obese person’s eating behaviors have very little to do with his or her stomach, but rather it is determined by cue likes smell, sight and the state of the food. (Berk, 2008, p 19) Bandura also established that “diverse factors affect children’s motivation to imitate” including reinforcement or punishment. An example of this that relates to childhood obesity, from the textbook Child Development by, Laura E. Berk, is “parents of overweight children often use high-fat, sugary foods to reinforce other behaviors, leading children to attach great value to the treat.” (Berk, 2008, p 20) Overweight children are more likely to eat larger quantities of high-calorie sugary and fatty foods because these foods are influenced in the diets offered by their parents, who tend to be overweight as well. (Berk, 2008, p 18) Some parents overfeed their children, interpreting their discomforts for desire for food and others pressure their children to eat. These eating experiences are linked to social learning theory.
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