London: The behaviour of grandparents may inadvertently be having a negative impact on the health of their grandchildren, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the UK looked at 56 studies with data from 18 countries, concerning the care provided by grandparents who are not the primary carer of their grandchildren.
Until now research has largely focused on the potential role of parents in contributing towards risk factors for diseases such as cancer, however, there has been limited investigation on the role of other part-time caregivers, such as grandparents.
The aim of the review, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was to identify any potential influence grandparents' habits may have on their grandchildren's long-term cancer risk factors.
It found that, overall, grandparents were inadvertently having an adverse impact on their grandchildren's health, especially in the areas of weight and diet – through 'treating,' overfeeding, and lack of physical activity.
There were also negative impacts as a result of tobacco smoke by not complying with parents' wishes regarding second-hand smoke and role-modelling negative behaviour, researchers said.
However, the studies did not take into account the positive emotional benefit of children spending time with their grandparents.
Smoking, diet and a lack of physical activity, along with excess weight, have been identified as risk factors for non- communicable disease, particularly cancer.
"While the results of this review are clear that behaviour such as exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood, it is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional," said Stephanie Chambers from University of Glasgow.
"Currently grandparents are not the focus of public health messaging targeted at parents and in light of the evidence from this study, perhaps this is something that needs to change given the prominent role grandparents play in the lives of children," said Chambers....