Poor mothers face greater scrutiny over their children’s weight: UBC study

In B.C., 153,300 children – or one-in-five – are living below the poverty line

Low-income mothers who use food assistance programs face a high level of surveillance over their children’s health and weight, new UBC research suggests.

The study, in which Vancouver-based sociology researchers interviewed 138 mothers and grandmothers of young children and low-income communities in North Carolina, found that mothers felt their children’s bodies— specifically, their sizes— were a reflection of how well they were feeding them, which put them at risk of being labeled uncaring or incapable.

“All parents face some scrutiny over their kids’ bodies when they go to the doctor, but our findings suggest poor mothers experience more scrutiny,” said Sinikka Elliott, study co-author and UBC assistant professor.

“The stakes are also higher for these mothers as many feel they will be reported to social services if their children are overweight or underweight.”

In Canada, Statistics Canada reported in 2017 that 1.2 million children are living in poverty, defined as an income of $4,266 for a four-person household.

In B.C., 153,300 children – or one-in-five – are living below the poverty line, according to First Call BC.

READ MORE: Feds to spend millions to reverse low take up rates for low-income benefits

READ MORE: Nearly half of recently immigrated kids in B.C. are poor: report

In the study, researchers focused on low-income mothers, especially black and Latina mothers, of children who are either overweight or underweight face greater accusations from doctors, nutritionists and social workers that they don’t properly feed their children compared to mothers whose children are deemed to be a healthy weight.

The children in the study ranged from two to nine years old, with about half deemed to be a normal weight, three per cent underweight, 12 per cent overweight and 32 per cent obese.

Researchers found the mothers were worried about losing custody of their children if they are deemed to be inadequately feeding them.

Black mothers in particular shared stories of being accused of, or being afraid of, accusations of neglect on the basis of their children’s weights or appetites, the study showed.

“There’s a common misconception that low-income parents of overweight children don’t know or don’t care about their children’s weights, but that’s simply not true,” said Sarah Bowen, study co-author and associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at North Carolina State University.

“The mothers in our study cared a lot about their children’s health and weight. They knew that they should encourage their kids to drink more water, eat more vegetables, and be more active.”

Elliott said the findings highlight a need for greater understanding and less stigma around body size and the challenges facing low-income parents.

“Many different factors affect how kids’ bodies develop,” said Elliott. “Their eating habits are shaped not just by what happens at home, but by the food that’s available at school, peer pressure and even the commercials on TV. It doesn’t make sense to praise or blame parents, yet we do.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Alleged shoplifting incident no longer of public interest, Crown finds

BC Prosecution Service explains legal process after South Surrey sting operation

Surrey football streaker hires personal injury lawyer

BC Lions not commenting as matter is ‘now before the courts’

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Beach House Theatre explores the perils of celebrity

Season includes Neil Simon farce Rumours, and Grade 5 superhero tale Miss Electricity

SURREY EVENTS GUIDE for June 20 and beyond

Concerts, festivals, markets and more in our weekly guide for Surrey

VIDEOS: Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Police look for driver of blue Jeep who may have helped at fatal crash

A 19-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Delta on June 2

UPDATED: Polygamous wife appeals conviction in B.C. child bride case

Emily Blackmore was found guilty of taking her underage daughter to U.S. to marry church leader

VIDEO: Pro and anti SOGI advocates protest outside Langley School Board office

Police were on hand but did not intervene except to ask both sides to keep the sidewalks clear.

B.C. sets deadline for Indigenous salmon farm consent

All 120 operations will need agreements by 2022, province says

Family of 4 from Oregon believed to be missing in northern B.C.

RCMP, Search and Rescue crews searching area where vehicle was abandoned

B.C. creates public registry to track real estate owners

The first registry of its kind in Canada aims to end the hidden property ownership

Sample craft beer, cider, mead, vodka at Langley Libations Tour

Four artisan beverage businesses in Langley take part in Sunday tour

Police watchdog called to Kelowna after car destroyed in crash

A motor vehicle incident has closed Highway 33 in both directions

Most Read