Science Scoops: A “Chip” Off the Ol' Block

A new study is trying to link parents with their children — in a most bizarre way. For instance, are you one of those kids who will grab a giant-size bag of chips and gobble them up every time you're sad? Well, that behavior might have come from Mom or Dad!

At least that's what Veronique Provencher (Laval University, Quebec) and her colleagues believe. In essence, their research proves that a family that eats together may grow thin or chubby together. If you're prone to feeling hungry earlier than your friends, that's probably because you grew up with parents or siblings who had the same tendency. The findings are based on interviews with 308 men and 424 women from 202 families. Provencher and her team also noted how overweight each person was, and asked about certain eating behaviors. The researchers found that the tendency of a family to adopt the same eating behavior likely influences whether children grow up to overeat in response to stress, as well as how quickly they become hungry as adults.

“We have to keep in mind the possible familial influence on eating behaviors,” Provencher says. Some of these eating behaviors may leave certain families more prone to obesity than others. Understanding how an individual's family ate while they were growing up may help health workers keep that individual at a healthy weight today. So, the next time you pick up that monstrous bag of chips, think of how you might be carrying on a long tradition. . .that you can and should break!

Vocabulary

  • prone: Having a tendency to act, be, or feel a certain way.
  • tendency: An inclination to think, act, or behave in a certain way.

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Activity

  1. Is the article describing a learned or an inherited behavior?
  2. Complete a learned behavior chart. Print the chart titled: Learned Behavior Chart (PDF file). Think of some of the different habits that you have developed, such as brushing your teeth or always saying goodbye to someone the same way. Write down one of your behaviors in the first row of each column. Under each behavior, write down the person from whom you learned that behavior. This person will be labeled as “Instructor.” If possible, ask the “Instructor” who taught him or her that behavior. Write down that person's name beneath the Instructor's name.