Unhealthy behaviors and psychosocial difficulties among overweight adolescents: The potential impact of familial factors

Alison E. Mellin, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Mary Story, Marjorie Ireland, Michael D. Resnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Purpose: To compare overweight and non-overweight youth on a selection of self-reported eating, physical activity, dieting, educational, and emotional variables and identify familial factors that serve as protective forces against unhealthy behaviors and psychosocial difficulties among overweight adolescents. Methods: Data were taken from a 1996 cross-sectional school-based survey of 9957 adolescents in grades 7, 9, and 11. Based on self-reported heights and weights, respondents were categorized as "overweight" (body mass index) ≥85th percentile or "non-overweight." Student's t-tests were used to compare the non-overweight and overweight sample on the self-reported health-related behaviors and psychosocial variables. Logistic and linear regressions were used to identify familial factors associated with a reduced risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviors and experiencing psychosocial distress. Results: Overweight adolescents reported engaging in significantly more unhealthy behaviors and experiencing more psychosocial distress than their non-overweight peers. Among the overweight youth, higher levels of reported family connectedness and parental expectations and moderate levels of parental monitoring were associated with the lowest levels of unhealthy behaviors and psychosocial distress. Conclusions: Satisfying and developmentally appropriate parent-adolescent relationships are associated with reduced behavioral and psychosocial risk factors associated with overweight during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by the University of Minnesota Adolescent Health Training Program, Grant #5-T71-MC-00006-22, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.


  • Adolescence
  • Family
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Protective factors


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