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Style over substance: what can parenting styles tell us about ownership styles and obesity in companion animals?

  • Alexander J. German (a1)
Abstract

Obesity is a major medical concern in human subjects, and most concerning is the rapid recent increase in childhood obesity. Children are more likely to be obese if their parents are obese, an effect that is mediated both by genetics and environment, most notably parental influence. Four major parenting styles have been recognised: authoritative; authoritarian; indulgent; uninvolved. Too much parental control, as with the authoritarian style, is associated with a higher weight status in children. Conversely, indulgent feeding styles can also have negative consequences and, where control is too lax, a poor relationship with food develops, which may also lead to weight gain. Obesity is also a growing concern in companion animals, and it has parallels with obesity in children. For instance, overweight people are more likely to own overweight dogs. Furthermore, the care that people provide for their pets mirrors that which parents provide for children, and pets are commonly viewed as child substitutes. These similarities raise obvious questions about whether different styles of pet ownership exist, and what part they may play in attitudes to feeding as well as predisposition to obesity in pets. Future work could focus on determining to what extent styles of pet ownership mirror parenting styles, whether there are links to obesity in dogs and cats. Knowledge regarding the owner-pet bond might provide comparative insights into the links between parenting styles and childhood obesity.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: A. J. German, fax +44 151 795 6101, email ajgerman@liv.ac.uk
References
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