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Parental motivation to change body weight in young overweight children

  • Rachael W Taylor (a1), Sheila M Williams (a2), Anna M Dawson (a3), Jillian J Haszard (a4) and Deirdre A Brown (a5)...



To determine what factors are associated with parental motivation to change body weight in overweight children.


Cross-sectional study.


Dunedin, New Zealand.


Two hundred and seventy-one children aged 4–8 years, recruited in primary and secondary care, were identified as overweight (BMI≥85th percentile) after screening. Parents completed questionnaires on demographics; motivation to improve diet, physical activity and weight; perception and concern about weight; parenting; and social desirability, prior to being informed that their child was overweight. Additional measures of physical activity (accelerometry), dietary intake and child behaviour (questionnaire) were obtained after feedback.


Although all children were overweight, only 42 % of parents perceived their child to be so, with 36 % indicating any concern. Very few parents (n 25, 8 %) were actively trying to change the child’s weight. Greater motivation to change weight was observed for girls compared with boys (P=0·001), despite no sex difference in BMI Z-score (P=0·374). Motivation was not associated with most demographic variables, social desirability, dietary intake, parenting or child behaviour. Increased motivation to change the child’s weight was observed for heavier children (P<0·001), those who were less physically active (P=0·002) and more sedentary (P<0·001), and in parents who were more concerned about their child’s weight (P<0·001) or who used greater food restriction (P<0·001).


Low levels of parental motivation to change overweight in young children highlight the urgent need to determine how best to improve motivation to initiate change.

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Parental motivation to change body weight in young overweight children

  • Rachael W Taylor (a1), Sheila M Williams (a2), Anna M Dawson (a3), Jillian J Haszard (a4) and Deirdre A Brown (a5)...


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