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J Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Jun;50(6):461-70. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12518. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

Using motivational interviewing for weight feedback to parents of young children.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, University of Otago, New Zealand.



To determine whether a single session of motivational interviewing (MI) for feedback of a child's overweight status promotes engagement in treatment following screening.


One thousand ninety-three children aged 4-8 years were recruited through primary and secondary care to attend health screening, including assessment of parenting practices and motivation (questionnaire). Families with normal-weight children were informed about their child's weight but had no further involvement. Parents of overweight (body mass index ≥ 85th percentile) children (n = 271) were randomised to receive weight feedback via MI or best practice care (BPC) using a traffic light concept to indicate degree of health risk. Follow-up interviews were held 2 weeks later to examine intervention uptake, changes to motivation and behaviour, and parental response to feedback.


Recruitment into the intervention was high (76%) and not altered by feedback condition (percentage difference 6.6 (95% confidence interval -2.9, 16.0). High scores on the Health Care Climate Questionnaire (rating of the interviewer) indicated satisfaction with how the information was provided to parents. No differences were observed in multiple indicators of harm. However, self-determined motivation for healthy life-styles was significantly higher in the MI condition at follow-up (0.18: 0.00, 0.35), after only a single session of MI.


MI and BPC were both successful in encouraging parents to participate in a family-based intervention, with MI offering little significant benefit over BPC. A traffic light approach to weight feedback is a suitable way of providing sensitive information to parents not expecting such news.


body mass index; motivational interviewing; paediatric obesity; primary care

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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