Teen weight control behavior may reflect mothers' attitudes on weight

CHICAGO Teenagers are more likely to think about wanting to be thin, and to be frequent dieters, if they accurately perceive that being thin is important to their mothers, according to a study in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The association between body weight of children and their parents is known to be affected by genetic and cultural factors. However, less is known about the relationship between the weight concerns and weight control practices of parents and their children. Mothers are thought to play a role in the transmission of cultural values about body weight and shape. Studies show that girls whose mothers diet and are concerned with their weight and shape are more likely than their peers to develop unhealthy weight control practices, according to background information in the article.

Alison E. Field, Sc.D., of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues assessed the association between weight concerns and weight control practices of adolescents and their mothers. The authors conducted a cross-sectional study of 5,331 girls and 3,881 boys, with a mean [average] age of 14.9 years (range, 11.8 to 18.4 years), and their mothers. Participants were included in the analysis if both the adolescent and his or her mother returned a questionnaire mailed in 1999 and provided information on weight, height, and weight concerns.

Weight concerns were more common among girls, with 33 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys thinking frequently about wanting to be thinner. Approximately 54 percent of mothers reported that they thought about wanting to be thinner a lot or always, and 22 percent reported frequently attempting to lose weight during the past year. Also, 0.4 percent of girls and 3.7 percent of boys accurately perceived that their weight was important to their mother. Eight percent of girls had frequently diete

Contact: Aaron Patnode
JAMA and Archives Journals

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