Overly protective mothers can cause their children to become obese, a study has found. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute analysed data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and identified a connection between overprotective parenting and the rate of child obesity.

According to the paper, published on PLOS ONE, children whose mothers had high levels of protectiveness were more likely to be overweight or obese at 10-11 years of age, than those whose mothers showed average levels of protectiveness.

"We found that kids had up to a 13% higher risk of being overweight or obese if their mum had above-average protectiveness, but the pattern only emerged when kids were about 10 or 11 years old," lead author Kirsten Hancock said.

"Whilst there's no clear indication why this age group is most affected, we believe it may be related to their level of independence."

Hancock added: "This is an age when kids are usually allowed to start walking or riding to school on their own and play more independently with friends and be more mobile, but those children with overprotective parents may not be getting this opportunity and this could be impacting on their physical health and wellbeing."

The study also showed that there were higher levels of maternal protectiveness amongst disadvantaged families including those with lower levels of income and lower levels of maternal education.

However, researchers said further study was needed to explain why these groups are more affected.

"Further research is now recommended. It's also important to look at the protectiveness levels of mums and dads combined, and what sort of effect this has for kids," Hancock concluded.