The finding is based on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, who surveyed 96 overweight or obese children and their parents, comparing how bullying, depression and parents' well-being related to each child's quality of life.
The researchers looked at a combination of factors, namely health, emotional well-being, academic performance and social status.
They found that parent distress, peer bullying and childhood depression can propel a cycle that makes it more difficult for children to adopt healthier lifestyles.
From the study, the researchers concluded that tending to the needs of distressed parents could be one of the best ways to help children.
"Looking at how parents are doing themselves, how they are doing socially and emotionally and how they are coping with the stresses in their lives, is really important too. It's important for them to take time out to take care of themselves," said David Janicke, a UF assistant professor of clinical and health psychology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the lead author of the study.
"If a parent is distressed, that seems to impact a child's symptoms of depression, which then impacts quality of life. It's the same with peer victimization. It impacts depression, which then impacts quality of life. And it seems to affect not just the emotional aspect of quality of life, but also their health status," he added.
Talking about quality of life and problems such as bullying also helps clinicians encourage children to confront their weight problem, for though fears of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease don't motivate kids, factors such as bullying do.
"It gives a kid language to be able to talk about what it would mean to them to be able to make lifestyle changes," said Meg Zeller, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati and a psychologist with the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Obesity.