Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Weight-Related Health Behaviors and Body Mass: Associations between Young Adults and Their Parents, Moderated by Parental Authority

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Weight-Related Health Behaviors and Body Mass: Associations between Young Adults and Their Parents, Moderated by Parental Authority

Article excerpt


Background: Parents' behaviors could contribute to the development of their children's weight-related health behaviors. Purpose: Relationships of young adults' (N = 151) and their parents' weight-related behaviors were examined along with parental authority styles. Methods: Questionnaires were completed by young adults and their parents. Comparisons of BMI, energy consumption, and energy expenditure were conducted with correlation analyses and paired-samples t-tests. Multiple regression analyses were used to further explore the influence of parental authority. Results: Parents' weight statuses and dietary behaviors were positively associated with those of their young adult children (P < .001 for both). When controlling for gender, at high levels of authoritarian and permissive parental practices, young adults tended to have weight statuses that were inversely related to those of their parents (P < .001 for both); at high levels of authoritarian parenting, young adults also tended to follow dietary consumption patterns that were inversely related to those of their parents (P < .001). Physical activity behaviors of young adults and their parents were not related. Discussion: This study provides evidence that parental behaviors influence children's lasting weight-related health behaviors. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health educators and counselors who aim to influence weight-related health of children should consider the role of parents and of parental authority styles.


Excessive body weight is the result of an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. The factors that contribute to the imbalance are quite complex. Combinations of risk factors for children, such as high television consumption, maternal smoking in pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle, low meal frequency and early postnatal formula feeding, contribute to excessive body weight. (1) An increased consumption of energy-dense foods accompanied by a decreased consumption of nutrient-dense foods is also a leading risk factor for overweight conditions among children. (2) Increased soda consumption contributes to excessive bodyweight in children, (3) and many high-sugar, high-energy foods have replaced fruits and vegetables. (4)

In school-aged children, increases in overweight and obese conditions have been attributed to decreased opportunities for unorganized physically active play at school, the elimination of physical education course requirements and changes in the availability of organized sports. (5) In addition, school cafeterias are often required to remain within tight budgets while also serving food that children will purchase. (5)

Toschke and colleagues (1) have illustrated that environmental characteristics impress upon a child's learned decision-making related to diet and exercise habits. Children's environments are determinants of physical activity levels, and the availability of healthful foods impacts children's eating behaviors. (6) Parents' work schedules can contribute to low levels of physical activity among children and adolescents, (7) and the convenience of automobiles has replaced biking and walking. (8)

Parents' knowledge about nutrition affects children's learned eating habits. (9) Several dietary and physical activity intervention studies have suggested that changes in child participants' dietary and physical activity behaviors have been positively related to changes in their parents' dietary and physical activity behaviors. (10-15) Furthermore, Niemeier, Hektner and Enger concluded that parental involvement in children's weight-related health interventions significantly predicts changes in BMIs of child and adolescent participants. (16) Multiple studies have found, simply, that parents control the types of foods and activities their children can access, and parents model health behaviors for their children. (11-13,15)

Enten and Golan further suggest that children's eating behaviors are influenced by parental authority styles. …

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