Longitudinal and secular trends in parental encouragement for healthy eating, physical activity, and dieting throughout the adolescent years

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Purpose: Parental encouragement for healthy eating and physical activity has been found to be associated with the long-term healthy habits of adolescents, whereas parental encouragement to diet has been associated with disordered eating behaviors among adolescents. However, little is known about how parental encouragement changes as adolescents grow older (longitudinal trends), or how parental encouragement has changed over time (secular trends). This study examined 5-year longitudinal and secular trends in adolescents' report of their parents' encouragement to eat healthily, be physically active, and diet. Methods: Project Eating Among Teens surveyed a cohort of Minnesota adolescents (n = 2,516) in the years 1999 and 2004. Mixed-model regressions were used to assess changes in adolescents' reports of parental encouragement from early to middle adolescence (middle school to high school) and from middle to late adolescence (high school to post-high school), and secular changes in parental encouragement among middle adolescents between the years 1999 and 2004. Results: Longitudinally, there were significant decreases in parental encouragement to eat healthy food, be active, and diet between early and middle adolescence. Between middle and late adolescence, among males parental encouragement for all behaviors decreased, whereas among females parental encouragement to diet increased. Few secular changes in parental encouragement were observed between 1999 and 2004. Conclusion: Given the importance of parental support for healthy eating and physical activity, efforts should be made to help parents maintain a high level of encouragement for their children's healthy behavior throughout adolescence. Parents of late adolescent females should aim to decrease the pressure on their daughters to diet during these critical developmental years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-311
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant R40 MC 00319 (D. Neumark-Sztainer, principal investigator) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The first author was supported by the Adolescent Health Protection Program (School of Nursing, University of Minnesota) grant number T01-DP000112 (PI: Bearinger) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additional salary support for Dr. Laska was also provided by grant number K07 CA 126837 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) . The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or NCI.


  • Adolescence
  • Dieting
  • Encouragement
  • Nutrition
  • Parenting
  • Physical activity


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