Objective: To assess whether parental overweight status and disinhibited overeating are predictive of daughters' accelerated weight gain and disinhibited overeating.
Research methods and procedures: Participants were part of a longitudinal study of girls (N = 197) and their parents. Measured height and weight were used to calculate BMI [weight (kilograms)/height (meters)(2)]. Parents' disinhibited eating behavior was assessed using the Eating Inventory. Girls' disinhibited eating was assessed using a behavioral protocol to measure eating in the absence of hunger. Girls were classified based on parental overweight at study entry into four groups: neither, mother only, father only, or both parents overweight.
Results: Girls with both parents overweight had the most rapid increases in BMI from 5 to 13 years of age; BMI increased most slowly among the neither parent overweight group, with intermediate increases in BMI among mother only and father only overweight groups. Daughters with both parents overweight at study entry were eight times more likely to be overweight at age 13, controlling for daughters' weight at age 5. Girls with both parents overweight had higher levels of disinhibited eating across all ages than all other groups. Although girls in all parental weight status groups showed increases in disinhibited eating over time, girls with both parents overweight had larger increases in disinhibited eating over time compared with all other groups.
Discussion: Girls growing up in families differing in parental overweight had divergent developmental trajectories for BMI and disinhibited overeating. Findings reveal the need to focus prevention efforts on overweight parents of young children.