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Parental roles in the development of obesity in children: challenges and opportunities

Authors Danford CA, Schultz C, Marvicsin D

Received 3 October 2014

Accepted for publication 8 December 2014

Published 13 April 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 39—53


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Zvi Kelman

Cynthia A Danford,1 Celeste M Schultz,2 Donna Marvicsin2

1Department of Health Promotion and Development, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 2Department of Health Promotion/Risk Reduction, University of Michigan, School of Nursing, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Background: The prevalence of childhood obesity has become a global concern and evolves from the complex interaction of multiple factors. In particular, the influence of socioeconomic status and ethnicity when combined with family dynamics are important, yet remain inconsistent in their association with childhood obesity. Parents, as influential family members, play a primary role in the development of their children’s eating and activity behaviors that may contribute to increased weight. This integrative review 1) examines the parental role in the development of childhood obesity and 2) identifies implications for health programs and policies.
Method: Systematic searches using five databases followed by a lateral search were conducted between April and June 2014. Inclusion criteria included empirical research published in the last 5 years addressing the role that parents with children 12 years and younger play in their child being or becoming obese. Nineteen publications were identified.
Results: Six themes related to the association between parental role and childhood obesity emerged from our review. These themes included parenting style, parent influence on feeding, modeling, self-efficacy, concern, and bidirectional interaction of the parent-child dyad. Parenting style, modeling, and self-efficacy were not consistently associated with childhood obesity. Parental concern, however, was linked to specific feeding practices. Parental restriction and pressure to eat certain foods were both found to be inversely related to a child’s weight status. Parent’s role in promoting activity was infrequently addressed.
Conclusion: When addressing eating and activity behaviors among children, the role that parents play in feeding their child and their concern for their child’s health is critical. Including mothers and fathers as potential “agents of change” and considering their cultural norms are two elements necessary for effective health programming and policy development.

Keywords: parental role, childhood obesity, parenting behaviors

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