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Int J Eat Disord. 1999 May;25(4):435-40.

Dieting and the family context of eating in young adolescent children.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.



The potential for undernutrition and links with eating disorders make early dieting an issue of concern. The aim of this research was to examine the eating patterns, social circumstances of eating, and parental use of food in young adolescent dieters.


Four hundred and two 12-year-old children (200 girls, 202 boys) completed assessments of dieting, eating patterns, food-related nurturance, and parental control of eating, together with body weight, height, and self-perception.


Current dieting (20% girls, 8% boys) was strongly associated with fasting and dietary restraint. Highly restrained children ate fewer meals and snacks and reported significantly greater parental control of their eating. However, they did not differ in the social context of eating or in food-related nurturance. Dieting status was a stronger determinant than body weight of all these differences.


These findings suggest that 12-year-old dieters are quite serious in their nutritional intentions. They also confirm an active role for parents in their children's dieting. Both children and their parents are in need of age and gender-specific advice concerning eating and weight.

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