The findings showed that among males, the quality of relationship with the father had a greater impact on their odds of being overweight or obese.
When it came to predicting whether a young male will become overweight or obese, the mother-son relationship mattered far less than the relationship between father and son, the researchers said.
“Our results highlight the importance of examining the influence fathers have on their children and to develop strategies to help fathers support the development of healthy behaviours among their children,” said lead author Jess Haines, Professor at the University of Guelph in Canada.
Further, young adults who grew up in stable families with quality parental relationships were more likely to have healthy diet, activity and sleep behaviours and were less likely to be obese.
Girls who were raised in stable families were also found to consume less fast food and thus less likely to be overweight or obese.
“It appears the father-son parent relationship has a stronger influence on sons than the mother-daughter relationship has on young women,” Haines added.
For the study, the team analysed more than 3,700 females and more than 2,600 males, all aged 14-24.
Among both males and females, 80 per cent said they had high family function, defined by how well the family managed daily routines, and how family members fulfilled their roles and connected emotionally.
In all, six out of 10 females and half of males reported high quality relationships with their parents.
“In general, the findings show the importance of family behaviours and relationships on the health of young adults from an early age, which can be powerful determinants of weight and related behaviours,” Haines noted.
On the other hand, a high level of family dysfunction may interfere with the development of health behaviours in young adults, said the paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.