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Role of parental influences in the prevention of childhood overweight: Implications for environmental change

Dana Gerstein, MPH, RD1, Gail M. Woodward-Lopez, MPH, RD2, Shirley Pareo, MS3, Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD2, Susan L. Ivey, MD, MHSA4, and Patricia B Crawford, DrPH, RD5. (1) CNR - Center for Weight & Health, Center for Weight and Health, 3 Giannini Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3100, 510642-9969, danaeg@nature.berkeley.edu, (2) Center for Weight and Health, University of California, Berkeley, 3 Giannini Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3100, (3) Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 2701 Frontier NE, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (4) Center for Family and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, 140 Warren Hall, UC-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, (5) Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, 9 Morgan Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-3104

PURPOSE: There are a number of non-genetic ways in which the parent and family environment may influence children’s eating practices and ultimately childhood overweight. In our review, we focused on the following parental behaviors and attitudes, which have been the primary areas of investigation into parental influences on child adiposity: Parental child-feeding practices (parental control over child’s dietary intake, parental restriction of highly palatable foods, parental encouragement/pressure to eat and instrumental & emotional feeding); Parental dietary self-restraint & disinhibition; Parental concern about child’s weight status; Family functioning. METHODS: We conducted a literature review to identify studies published between 1992 and 2003 that examined the association between one of these parental influences and a measure of adiposity. Articles that met these criteria were reviewed and included in our review. FINDINGS: Although clearly more studies in this area are needed, particularly longitudinal in nature and among a more nationally representative sample, the findings presented here suggest that a focus on healthy parental attitudes toward their own weight and eating practices, avoidance of preoccupation with children’s weight, and healthy levels of parental involvement/support appear to be the most promising target behaviors for the prevention of overweight in children. Our review further found only weak support for the hypothesis that high levels of parental restriction and control over their child’s intake may increase the risk of overweight in children and identified no epidemiological support for the contention that pressure to eat or use of food as a reward increases the risk of overweight.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of this presentation, the participant will be able to

    Keywords: Child/Adolescent, Obesity

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Spotlight on the Youth Obesity Epidemic

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA