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Pediatrics. 2005 Jul;116(1):e94-101.

Factors associated with parental readiness to make changes for overweight children.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing in the United States. However, it has been difficult to help children successfully lose weight and maintain weight loss. Parental involvement in this effort is important. Currently, little is known about parents' readiness to make behavior changes to help their children lose weight. The objective of this study was to describe demographic factors and parental perceptions associated with parents' readiness to make weight-reducing lifestyle changes for their overweight and at-risk-for-overweight children.


A total of 151 parents of children who were aged 2 to 12 years and had BMIs >or=85th percentile for age and gender completed a 43-item self-administered questionnaire. Parental stage of change, defined as precontemplation stage, contemplation stage, and preparation/action stage, was determined using an algorithm involving current parental practices and future intentions. Parents in the preparation/action stage were considered to be ready to make behavior changes to help their child lose weight. Maximum-likelihood multinomial logistic regression was used to identify demographics and perceptions associated with parental stage of change.


Sixty-two percent of the children had a BMI >or=95th percentile. Their mean age was 7.5 years, and 53% were male. Of the 151 parents, 58 (38%) were in the preparation/action stage of change, 26 (17%) were in the contemplation stage, and 67 (44%) were in the precontemplation stage. Factors associated with being in the preparation/action stage of change were having overweight or older (>or=8 years) children, believing that their own weight or child's weight was above average, and perceiving that their child's weight was a health problem. After controlling for multiple factors, having an older child (odds ratio [OR]: 2.99; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.18-7.60), believing that they themselves were overweight (OR: 3.45; 95% CI: 1.36-8.75), and perceiving that their child's weight was a health problem (OR: 9.75; 95% CI: 3.43-27.67) remained significantly associated with being in the preparation/action stage of change.


Several demographic factors and personal perceptions are associated with a parent's readiness to help his or her child lose weight. Knowledge of these factors may be beneficial to providers and program developers when addressing pediatric overweight with parents and initiating new interventions.

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