Mother-reported parental weight talk and adolescent girls' emotional health, weight control attempts, and disordered eating behaviors

Katherine W. Bauer, Michaela M. Bucchianeri, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

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70 Scopus citations


Background: The aim of this paper is to explore the relationships between mothers' report of parental weight talk about her daughter, herself, and others, and adolescent girls' weight-related behaviors and cognitions among a socio-demographically diverse population of mothers and their adolescent daughters.Methods: Data were drawn from the baseline assessment of 218 mother/adolescent daughter dyads. Mothers completed survey items regarding the frequency of weight talk by parents, and girls completed survey items assessing outcomes including body dissatisfaction, depressive symptomology, use of extreme weight control methods, and binge eating.Results: More frequent comments to daughters about their weight were associated with higher depressive symptomology (p = 0.041), greater prevalence of extreme weight control behaviors (p = 0.040), and greater prevalence of binge eating (p = 0.048) among girls after adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics and girls' standardized body mass index (BMI). For example, among girls whose parents never commented on their weight, 4.2% reported use of any extreme weight control behaviors, while 23.2% of girls whose parents frequently commented on their weight reported use of any of these behaviors. Mothers' more frequent talk about their own weight, shape, or size was associated with lower self-worth (p = 0.007) and higher depressive symptomology (p = 0.004) among girls.Conclusions: Frequent parental weight talk as perceived by mothers was associated with adolescent girls' use of harmful weight control methods and poor psychological health, while no associations were found between weight talk and girls' use of healthful weight control strategies. Interventions that help parents create a family environment that supports healthful activities while reducing weight-related talk may be particularly effective in decreasing the prevalence of harmful outcomes among adolescent girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 27 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [grant number R01 DK063107] and the National Center for Research Resources [grant number M01-RR00400] at the National Institutes of Health, and a J.B. Hawley Student Research Award from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota. KWB was supported by the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training (MnOPT) Program [grant number T32-DK083250] from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. MMB was funded by grant number T32 MH082761-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 Bauer et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


  • Adolescents
  • Disordered eating
  • Parenting


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