Health messages framed within the context of controlling body weight can negatively impact motivation to make health changes. However, it is unknown how health messages featuring childhood obesity affects parental “weight talk” behaviors (e.g., encouraging a child to lose weight).
Assess the effects of exposure to parent-targeted health advice that emphasizes either a weight-framed or non-weight framed message on parental intentions to engage in weight talk.
Study Design, Settings, Participants
Randomized, controlled, online experiment in which 452 parents with a child between the ages of 6 and 17 were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a mock news article with health advice for parents emphasizing obesity (weight-framed message); identical health advice but framed within the context of improving children's school performance (school-framed message); and control group.
Survey questions assessed demographics, anthropometrics, and intention to engage in weight talk (four-item scale; 1="extremely unlikely" to 7="extremely likely"; e.g. "In the next 12 months, how likely is it that you will have a conversation with your child about his/her weight or size?"). Linear regression was used to assess the relationship between experimental condition and intention to engage in weight talk, adjusting for parental BMI, child BMI percentile, parent and child gender, parent and child age, race/ethnicity, income, education, and experienced weight stigma.
Parents were diverse regarding gender (60% mothers), race/ethnicity (32% White, 34% Black, 34% Hispanic), income, and BMI category. Parents in the weight-frame condition were significantly more likely to report intention to engage in weight-focused conversations with their child than participants in the control group (B = .60, β = .15, P = 0.003), while there was no significant difference between the school-frame condition and the control group.
Parent-targeted health advice that features childhood obesity prevention may inadvertently encourage parents to engage in weight talk with their children. Public health interventions should reconsider focusing on body weight in health campaigns targeting parents.
Rudd Foundation; Christine N. Witzel Award