Parent’s Weight Response Predicts Weight Loss in Childhood Obesity Interventions

Regular readers may recall previous posts on the importance of changing parents’ behaviours in targeting childhood obesity. I have even gone as far as suggesting that the first step in dealing with obese children of obese parents should be to treat the parents themselves.

A study by Kerri Boutelle and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, published in the latest issue of OBESITY, appears to support this idea.

The researchers examined parenting skills, parent weight change and several other variables as predictors of child weight change in a sample of 80 parent/child dyads who were enrolled in a family based behavioral weight loss program for childhood obesity.

It turns out that after adjustment for other variables, the only significant predictor of whether or not kids lost weight was whether or not their parent also lost weight.

In fact, a reduction of 1 BMI unit in the parent was associated with a 0.255 reduction in child BMI.

None of the other variables were significant predictors in the final model.

As the authors note:

“This study is consistent with other research showing that parent weight change is a key contributor to child weight change in behavioral treatment for childhood obesity.”

They therefore recommend that:

“Researchers and clinicians should focus on encouraging parents to lose weight to assist their overweight and obese child in weight management.”

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. While family-centred childhood obesity interventions do regularly seek to include the parents – the primary objective of such programs is not to treat obesity in the parents. In fact, the clinicians involved in such family interventions typically neither have the training nor the resources to focus on diagnosing or treating the parents – after all, this is the domain of ‘adult’ medicine.

As someone, who only deals with adults, I am well aware of how complex it can be to manage adult obesity, even within a specialized adult program. I can, therefore, only imagine how daunting it may be to this in a ‘non-adult’ setting.

In fact, I would be very surprised if most parents, taking their kids to a paediatric obesity program in a children’s hospital, even expect to see themselves ‘diagnosed’ as ‘patients’ requiring treatment.

An interesting conundrum, I am sure, for those who run paediatric obesity programs – I wonder how often the clinicians working in such programs wished they could just refer the parents for treatment before attempting to change the kids.

Edmonton, Alberta

ResearchBlogging.orgBoutelle KN, Cafri G, & Crow SJ (2012). Parent Predictors of Child Weight Change in Family Based Behavioral Obesity Treatment. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) PMID: 22421896