there are strong labeling implications to a new longitudinal study in pediatrics by minnversity epidemiologist dianne neumark-sztainer and colleagues, summarized today in the strib. the punch line is that “parental encouragement to diet predicted poorer weight outcomes 5 years later, particularly for girls.”
the results parallel predictions by tannenbaum, lemert and becker with regard to delinquency: maybe the less said about it, the better. should we refuse to dramatize the “evil” of childhood obesity? here’s the abstract:
Accurate Parental Classification of Overweight Adolescents’ Weight Status: Does It Matter?
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RDa, Melanie Wall, PhDb, Mary Story, PhD, RDa and Patricia van den Berg, PhDa
OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to explore whether parents of overweight adolescents who recognize that their children are overweight engage in behaviors that are likely to help their adolescents with long-term weight management.
METHODS. The study population included overweight adolescents (BMI 85th percentile) who participated in Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) I (1999) and II (2004) and their parents who were interviewed by telephone in Project EAT I. Cross-sectional analyses were conducted with 314 adolescent-parent dyads, and longitudinal analyses were completed with 170 dyads.
RESULTS. Parents who correctly classified their children as overweight were no more likely than parents who did not correctly classify their children as overweight to engage in the following potentially helpful behaviors: having more fruits/vegetables and fewer soft drinks, salty snacks, candy, and fast food available at home; having more family meals; watching less television during dinner; and encouraging children to make healthful food choices and be more physically active. However, parents who recognized that their children were overweight were more likely to encourage them to diet. Parental encouragement to diet predicted poorer adolescent weight outcomes 5 years later, particularly for girls. Parental classification of their children’s weight status did not predict child weight status 5 years later.
CONCLUSIONS. Accurate classification of child overweight status may not translate into helpful behaviors and may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as encouragement to diet. Instead of focusing on weight per se, it may be more helpful to direct efforts toward helping parents provide a home environment that supports healthful eating, physical activity, and well-being.