Background

Half of US adults are pursuing weight loss, often through medical weight management programs (WMPs). Parental obesity is the strongest risk factor for childhood obesity, placing children of parents in WMPs at significant risk. Yet, the effects of parental WMP participation on children’s obesity risk, as measured by BMI, diet, and physical activity (PA) behaviors, are unknown. The objective of this study was to describe changes in parent and child BMI and behaviors from baseline to 6 months, and to determine preliminary estimates of changes in modifiable parent-child and family factors that contributing to changes in BMI and behaviors.

Methods

Parents from a WMP and their children (aged 7-18) consented to participate in a longitudinal observational study from program initiation/baseline through 6 months. Parent-child assessments included height/weight, diet and PA behaviors, parenting practices, and family functioning. Univariate and bivariate analyses determined changes from baseline to 6 months.

Results

25 dyads enrolled and 20 provided complete data over 6-months. Parents identified as female (85.7%), White (64.2%), 42.6 years old, with a baseline BMI of 44.6. Half of children identified as female (50%), White (57%), 12.2 years old, with a BMI percentile of 68.9 (29% overweight/obese). Parental BMI slightly increased (∆= -.51), however healthy weight control practices (eating fruits/vegetables; ∆ =.90) and PA increased (∆ = .24). Child BMI percentile also slightly increased (∆ = -.30), and unhealthy weight control practices increased (skipping meals; ∆ = -.49), while PA decreased (∆ = -.73). Parenting acceptance and psychological control decreased, while firm parenting increased, and family functioning slightly decreased.

Conclusions

Parental participation in WMPs has both positive and negative preliminary effects on parents and children. Future work will examine these effects in a fully powered study to determine intervention targets.