The role of parent-of-origin effects (POE) in the etiology of complex diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and obesity is currently of intense interest, but still largely unclear. POE are transmittable genetic effects whereby the expression of the phenotype in the offspring depends upon whether the transmission originated from the mother or father. In mammals, POE can be caused by genetic imprinting, intrauterine effects, or maternally inherited mitochondrial genes. In this paper, we describe the different mechanisms underlying POE, characterize known examples of POE in rare forms of diabetes, and review the evidence from linkage and association studies for POE in T2DM and obesity. Finally, we summarize some of the new and established statistical and experimental approaches commonly used to detect POE. Through this paper, we hope emphasizes the potentially significant importance of POE in the etiology of T2DM and obesity.