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Parental monitoring can positively affect adolescent weight status

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January 7, 2019

Maintaining communication and awareness between parents and adolescents, otherwise known as parental general monitoring, has a direct association with adolescent weight status and dietary intake, according to findings published in Obesity.

“Parental influences shape children’s eating behaviors from early in childhood through the availability and accessibility of food in the home and by restriction and promotion of certain foods and amounts,” Jan L. Wallander, PhD, professor of psychological sciences at University of California, Merced, and colleagues wrote. “Moreover, parents influence adolescents’ [physical activity] levels by providing encouragement, by being present at activities and by providing logistic support. Furthermore, parents can also influence sedentary activity by limiting TV, computer and other screen time.”

Researchers recruited 4,088 adolescents in seventh grade (mean age, 13 years; 51% girls) from three sites in Alabama, California and Texas for the longitudinal cohort study. All participants were either of black (37%), Latino (37%) or white (26%) ethnicity. Researchers conducted individual interviews with each participant and one or both parents to assess parental general monitoring, physical activity, dietary intake and screen time. Parental general monitoring was evaluated by a four-part questionnaire. Physical activity, dietary intake and screen time were self-reported from the previous 7 days. Lastly, the researchers measured height and weight to calculate BMI percentiles, which were used as an indication of weight status.

The researchers found an inverse association between parental general monitoring and adolescent weight (P < .05). In addition, dietary intake and physical activity were both positively linked to parental general monitoring (P < .05). There was an inverse association with unhealthy dietary intake and screen time, with the former also having an inverse association with weight status (P < .05). The researchers also noted an indirect effect between parental general monitoring and weight status through screen time in the total population (P < .001) and among Latino (P = .01) and white (P = .04) participants. An indirect effect was also found between parental general monitoring and unhealthy dietary intake in the total cohort (P < .001) and among Latino (P < .001) participants.

“[Parental general monitoring] is a reciprocal process in which parents and adolescents engage with one another, such that parents stay aware of what the adolescent is doing both in and out of the home, through observations and communication,” the researchers wrote. “This engagement depends on the adolescents’ willingness to communicate, indeed disclose, as parents no longer can rely on direct observation because the adolescent is expected increasingly to individuate from parents.” – by Phil Neuffer

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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