social contagion-four of spades
I think I am about to pick a fight with Theresa. Obviously, I’d rather not – especially since this week’s challenge is all about gathering with friends, hanging out and eating and enjoying one another’s company. But hopefully this fight will be short & sweet and we can make up over donuts apple slices real soon!
So – the reason Theresa challenges us to get together this week is because of her dad. “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are” was a favorite expression he used in her family, much to the annoyance of Theresa. But as a grown up – as so often happens – she sees the truth in his words. In fact, there is even a behaviour called “social contagion” that explores this exact theme. In fact, it is an awesome study and you can read more about it – The Framingham Heart Study – reference so you should check it out yourself here.
Essentially, the study suggests we socialize according to our commonalities. The example Theresa provides is this:
Tennis playing Susan lives next door to chip-eating Lucy, they aren’t’ likely to be friends. Susan doesn’t want to eat chips and watch movies all the time and Lucy doesn’t want to swing a racquet at the tennis club”.
The thing is, I agree with Theresa. I find I am reading along, nodding frantically.
And then she talks about how “troubling it is to see portrayals of overweight children in kids media.”
What?? Her theory is that based on the study’s hypothesis, the result is that the display of chubby kids in ads and movies normalizes being overweight.
To be fair, I agree with Theresa (and the study) in theory. But like so many things about parenting, discussing something in theory does not always translate well into real life.
In theory, you should never, ever bribe a child, especially with food, right? In reality, grocery shopping with two over-tired, grumpy, hungry kids will go waaay smoother with offers (ok, bribes) of the much coveted sugary cereal.
In theory, letting my dogs sleep on the boys bed is un-hygienic and dirty. In reality, it is just the the gosh-darndest cutest thing to see them all snuggly together in bed and we allow it regularly.
For the record, my boys are both a healthy weight. I don’t think this is a case of me feeling defensive for imposing my weight problems onto my children.
However, one of my closest friends has a son who *looks* overweight. His dad is over 6′ tall and their son will probably grow up an even bigger man. But right now he is husky. He is also strong and healthy and eats way better than I do ( no sugary cereals for this boy). His smile is big and his energy high, always with a twinkle in his eye. I’d LOVE to see this guy on the big screen – he’s that cool! And yet, at ten years old, he no longer changes for gym with his classmates, and prefers to swim with a shirt on – this is how aware of how not normal he already sees himself.
I know that this wasn’t really the point Theresa was trying to make – she is kind and supportive and generous – but I do think that this theory deserves to be questioned and it’s merits discussed. Or maybe I have completely missed the mark on this one, I am not really sure….
Do you think that using overweight children in the media can inadvertently compound the problem of childhood obesity or does it promote inclusiveness?