Should an Overweight Child be Considered Child Abuse?

Should an Overweight Child be Considered Child Abuse?

Child abuse is defined a few different ways depending on the source, but as it relates to overweight children each definition has a few similar words that come up: neglect; maltreatment; physical harm.overweight_kids

Child abuse, Definition #1: “Physical Maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child.”

Child abuse, Definition #2: “is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.”

Child abuse, Definition #3: “The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or

“An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

There are many unfortunate side-effects that come along with children who become overweight at a young age which include not only the formation of unhealthy eating habits, but being bullied via fat/body shaming, depression, etc… any of these can eventually lead to suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies.


Most people wouldn’t dispute that the parents and/or caregivers are directly responsible for overweight children given most kids will either do what their parents do — or will do what their parents allow them to get away with… The question is however:

“Should an obviously overweight child be considered child abuse by the parent(s)/caregiver?”


Which of these responses do mostly resonate with?…

A.) I agree. Aside from the exceptional cases for child obesity including biological, hormonal, underlying medical problems, etc… (which is why we should never automatically jump to the big, judgmental conclusion of “child-abuse”), but ultimately the parents/caregivers are responsible for their child’s eating habits, discipline and lack of physical activity. And if a parent’s ignorance, neglect or willful lack of discipline leads to imminent, long term, health risk — the parents should absolutely be held responsible.” – C. Haskell

B.) “Disagree. Folks aren’t letting their kids be obese, it’s not as simple as that. Children become obese because of their cultural, environmental, socio-economic and emotional surroundings. Poor, uneducated folks cannot afford to feed their children anything but fast or processed foods. We need to help parents, communities and cultures embrace healthy food but that will take empowerment, political reform and grassroots community movement. Pointing your finger to blame parents is overly simplifying a very complex systemic issue.” – Z. Moyer

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