Quarter of three-year-olds overweight


A quarter of three-year-olds in Ireland are either overweight or obese according to the results of the second report of a national study which interviews the parents of children at different stages of their upbringing.

The study - entitled Growing Up in Ireland - The Infant Cohort at 3 Years - was launched this morning by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald.

It originally interviewed the parents of 11,100 infants when they were nine-months-old and successfully re-interviewed 90 per cent of the same parents earlier this year after the children turned three.

Although 98 per cent of parents said their three-year-olds were in good health, the study found that almost one quarter of the children were overweight (19 per cent) or obese (6 per cent).

Children's weight was related to household social class with five per cent of three-year-olds in families in the professional/managerial class classified as compared with 9 per cent of those in the most disadvantaged social class group.

Children's consumption of energy-dense foods such as crisps, sweets, chips, and non-diet fizzy drinks increased as parental education fell.

Almost two thirds of children whose mothers had a lower secondary education or less ate at least one portion of crisps compared with 36 per cent of those from degree-level backgrounds.

The study found that half of three-year-olds were in some form of non-parental childcare for eight or more hours a week, the most common form of which was centre-based childcare. Children in non-parental childcare spent an average of 23 hours a week in the childcare setting.

On disciplining children, the report found that the most frequently used discipline technique was "discussing or explaining why the behaviour was wrong" a method which 63 per cent of mothers said they always did.

While more than half of mothers reported they never smacked their child, 12 per cent said they used smacking as a form of discipline "now and again" and less than 1 per cent said they used 'smacking' as a form of discipline more frequently.

Six out of 10 families who have three-year-olds reported experiencing difficulties in making ends meet.

Unemployment amongst fathers increased steeply amongst fathers between the two study interviews. Just 6 per cent were unemployed when their child was nine months, a figure which rose to almost 14 per cent when the child reached the age of three.

Just over half of mothers of three-year-olds work outside the home, 38 per cent said they were on home duties and 6 per cent said they were unemployed.

Growing Up in Ireland is a Government-funded study tracking the development of two groups of children: the above-mentioned infant cohort; and a child cohort which was initially interviewed at nine years and subsequently at 13 years of age.

The study is being conducted by a consortium of researchers led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin.