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J Child Health Care. 2011 Mar;15(1):71-80. doi: 10.1177/1367493510396262.

Parenting an overweight or obese child: a process of ambivalence.

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  • 1Center for Health Promotion, Akershus University Hospital and Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway.


Childhood overweight represents a health problem, and research points towards parents as key players. The aim of this study was to deepen the knowledge of how parents of children who are overweight or obese experience their parenthood. Focus group discussions with 17 parents were analysed according to the qualitative method of modified grounded theory. The results expressed the parents' ambivalence between preventing the child's overweight and not negatively affecting the child's self-esteem. The most important issue seemed to be their concern about the child's construction of self-understanding and experiences in interaction with the environment. The parents had become uncertain of their responsibility, priorities and how to act. In conclusion, parenting a child with weight issues could be a process of loving the child the way he/she is while still wanting changes for improved health, resulting in ambivalence. In addition to traditional advice about lifestyle, many parents seem to need counselling assistance with respect to their parental role.

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