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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Mother-reported parental weight talk and adolescent girls’ emotional health, weight control attempts, and disordered eating behaviors

Katherine W Bauer1*, Michaela M Bucchianeri2 and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Center for Obesity Research and Education, Temple University, 1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Ritter Annex 9th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA

2 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 1300 S. 2nd Street, WBOB 3rd floor, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

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Journal of Eating Disorders 2013, 1:45  doi:10.1186/2050-2974-1-45

Published: 27 December 2013

Abstract

Background

The aim of this paper is to explore the relationships between mothers’ report of parental weight talk about her daughter, herself, and others, and adolescent girls’ weight-related behaviors and cognitions among a socio-demographically diverse population of mothers and their adolescent daughters.

Methods

Data were drawn from the baseline assessment of 218 mother/adolescent daughter dyads. Mothers completed survey items regarding the frequency of weight talk by parents, and girls completed survey items assessing outcomes including body dissatisfaction, depressive symptomology, use of extreme weight control methods, and binge eating.

Results

More frequent comments to daughters about their weight were associated with higher depressive symptomology (p = 0.041), greater prevalence of extreme weight control behaviors (p = 0.040), and greater prevalence of binge eating (p = 0.048) among girls after adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics and girls’ standardized body mass index (BMI). For example, among girls whose parents never commented on their weight, 4.2% reported use of any extreme weight control behaviors, while 23.2% of girls whose parents frequently commented on their weight reported use of any of these behaviors. Mothers’ more frequent talk about their own weight, shape, or size was associated with lower self-worth (p = 0.007) and higher depressive symptomology (p = 0.004) among girls.

Conclusions

Frequent parental weight talk as perceived by mothers was associated with adolescent girls’ use of harmful weight control methods and poor psychological health, while no associations were found between weight talk and girls’ use of healthful weight control strategies. Interventions that help parents create a family environment that supports healthful activities while reducing weight-related talk may be particularly effective in decreasing the prevalence of harmful outcomes among adolescent girls.

Keywords:
Parenting; Adolescents; Disordered eating