Wondering whether your toddler will battle with their weight in years to come? Have a look at dad's waistline.

According to a new Australian study of more than 3,000 families by researchers at the University of Newcastle, 4-year-olds whose fathers were overweight or obese were at least four times more likely than other children to have weight problems themselves by the time they were eight.

On the other hand, an overweight or obese mother made little difference to the chances of her child developing their own weight problems.

"We know that when both parents are overweight or obese, their children are more likely to also be overweight or obese," researcher Emily Freeman said. "This project investigated patterns in families and tracked children from ages 4 to 8, where only one parent was overweight or obese."

The research used data from more than 3,000, two-parent families, who were tracked from 2004 to 2008. Previous research has found childhood obesity is a major health concern in Australia with up to 25 percent of children overweight or obese.

Freeman said while the study did not investigate reasons behind the link, children may mimic the eating and exercise habits of their fathers.

"These results show we urgently need to test whether treating overweight fathers would be a successful strategy in childhood obesity prevention or treatment," Freeman said.

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