Accurate parental classification of overweight adolescents' weight status: Does it matter?

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Melanie Wall, Mary Story, Patricia Den Van Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to explore whether parents of overweight adolescents who recognize that their children are overweight engage in behaviors that are likely to help their adolescents with long-term weight management. METHODS. The study population included overweight adolescents (BMI ≥ 85th percentile) who participated in Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) I (1999) and II (2004) and their parents who were interviewed by telephone in Project EAT I. Cross- sectional analyses were conducted with 314 adolescent-parent dyads, and longitudinal analyses were completed with 170 dyads. RESULTS. Parents who correctly classified their children as overweight were no more likely than parents who did not correctly classify their children as overweight to engage in the following potentially helpful behaviors: having more fruits/vegetables and fewer soft drinks, salty snacks, candy, and fast food available at home; having more family meals; watching less television during dinner; and encouraging children to make healthful food choices and be more physically active. However, parents who recognized that their children were overweight were more likely to encourage them to diet. Parental encouragement to diet predicted poorer adolescent weight outcomes 5 years later, particularly for girls. Parental classification of their children's weight status did not predict child weight status 5 years later. CONCLUSIONS. Accurate classification of child overweight status may not translate into helpful behaviors and may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as encouragement to diet. Instead of focusing on weight per se, it may be more helpful to direct efforts toward helping parents provide a home environment that supports healthful eating, physical activity, and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1495-e1502
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Adolescent
  • Dieting
  • Home
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Parent
  • Weight management


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