Topic 3 Parental influences and attitudes towards child’s impaired weight status

  • knowledge and involvement of the parents in the selection of food,
  • control over food and the patterns of eating at home (e.g., the provision of healthy food, the insistence on breakfast, and the family’s meals patterns),
  • acting of parents as role models,
  • Satisfaction with one’s body and weight teasing at home.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

Several parenting styles have been found more prevalent than others in families of obese children in comparison to normal weight children.

  • Parenting style is defined as the combination of attitudes and the emotional climate created by parents through which parental behaviors or practices are expressed.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

  • The parenting style defined as authoritarian seems to be specifically prevalent in families of obese children. This style is high in parental demanding and control and low in responsiveness, i.e. low in fostering individuality and self-assertion. As such, it may interfere with teaching the child how to chose the appropriate food and regulate food choice.
  • Parenting styles defined by low demanding and high responsiveness (permissive) and by low demanding and low responsiveness (neglectful) increase the odds of having an overweight child.

The linkage with feeding practices

Attitudes of parents towards their child’s weight

Parental attitudes

Comments and research findings


Ignoring child’s weight is considerable in parents of overweight children (above 80%) yet less frequent in parents of obese children (less but not 20%).

Misperception, disconnection, underestimation

Seven to ten mothers of overweight children claimed that their child was of similar weight to their peers, as being equally or more active than other children, and as having a diet at least as healthy as their peers.

Low educational level

Parents with less education have been shown to associate lower risk to their child’s overweight.

Boys vs. girls

Parents of boys have been shown to associate lower risk to their child’s overweight.

Parental overconcern

One of the most important factors affecting parental attitude toward their child’s overweight is the manner in which parents perceive and are preoccupied with their own weight. Parents are more likely to worry about their child’s potential for future overweight if they or the other parent are, or have been, overweight. In addition, parents may become over-concerned with their child’s overweight as the result of problematic consultations they have had with health care professionals.

Parental stereotypes

Children’s’ perceptions about their own overweight have been found to be influenced to a greater extent by the manner in which their parents relate to their overweight than by their actual BMI. For example, for overweight girls, their mothers’ weight-related over-reacting, likely leading to restriction of food, and their fathers’ overt criticism about their weight, are among the factors that have the most detrimental influence on their self-perception, and well-being.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND