Changes in social conditions, such as more women in the workforce, childcare costs, and a rise in lone parenting, have led to a rise in grandparents looking after their grandchildren.
Figures from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) found that 44 per cent of children are now regularly cared for by grandparents, with children spending an average of 10 hours a week with them.
But the new review found that grandparents were often having an negative impact on their grandchildren’s health, especially in areas of weight and diet, through ‘treating’, ‘overfeeding’ and not encouraging physical activity.
Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation, said: “Finding a doting grandparent who is confident enough to follow rules laid down by mum and to the letter is frequently a rarity.
“Both nan and grandpa can leave themselves wide open to manipulative and increasingly savvy grandchildren in their desire to please the little darlings.
“They bring out the biscuits at the slightest hint of a tantrum and, as the researchers report, they are also often too protective in loco parentis.
“The thought of losing children when out in the park may result in the kids being under house arrest – sweeties on demand and woefully short on exercise. Unfortunately, despite the researchers’ suggested messaging, it may ever be so as parents increasingly need to rely on this free form of childminding “.