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PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am

Dads weigh in on offsprings' health

Fathers' parenting styles may have a significant effect on their children's weight - whereas mothers' appear to have none, an Australian study of almost 5,000 children aged four to five has found. Permissive or disengaged fathers were more likely to have overweight or obese children, reports. Fathers with a consistent style of parenting were more likely to have children with a normal body mass index. More than 60 per cent of the fathers and more than 40 per cent of the mothers in the study by the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute were overweight or obese.

Telly diet starts earlier for longer

Nine out of 10 US children under two, and as many as four out of 10 under three months, regularly watch as much as 90 minutes of television or DVDs a day, despite warnings that they should watch none. And almost three out of 10 parents in the University of Washington survey of more than 1,000 families think TV can be educational, Reuters reports. 'None of this has been proved,' says team leader Frederick Zimmerman. 'We don't know that it's bad, but we don't know that it's harmless.'

Teens tuning in to idiot box

And a separate study by Columbia University has warned that TV may be shortening teenagers' attention spans. 'Over time, it could really dumb down society,' says team leader Jeffrey Johnson. The 20-year study of more than 675 families found that teens who watch three to four hours a day are more likely to have attention or learning problems and are less likely to get a university degree, Reuters reports. The results were the same, regardless of socio-economic status. 'Even watching more than an hour per day had some adverse consequences,' Johnson says.

Mums strung out over kids' insomnia

Children with sleeping problems not only cause their parents to lose sleep but may affect their physical and emotional well-being, a University of Melbourne study of more than 10,000 families has found. Mothers were the worst affected. Only infant sleep problems were linked to poorer health among fathers, whereas difficulties at any age seemed to affect mothers, Reuters reports. About 17 per cent of infants and 14 per cent of preschoolers were considered to have moderate or severe sleep problems.

Autism link to mercury disproved

Mercury levels appear to have no relationship to the development or severity of autism, according to a preliminary Canadian study. Childhood vaccines and food containing mercury have been suggested as a possible cause of an increase in autism in recent years, AFP reports. A study released earlier this year by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggested it may affect as many as one child in 150 in the US.

Jason Sankey is a tennis professional