Understanding parent concerns about children's diet, activity and weight status: an important step towards effective obesity prevention interventions

Public Health Nutr. 2010 Aug;13(8):1221-8. doi: 10.1017/S1368980009992096. Epub 2009 Nov 27.


Objective: To identify parents' concerns and attitudes towards children's diets, activity habits and weight status.

Design: Computer-assisted telephone interviewing administration of a 37-item survey. Data were weighted for parental education level. Descriptive results are presented, and comparisons are made by the age, gender and parental characteristics of the child.

Setting: Online research panel of Australian parents.

Subjects: A total of 1202 randomly selected parents of children aged 2-16 years, broadly representative of the Australian population.

Results: Parents were concerned about their child's education (reported by 35 % of respondents), child's health and well-being (25 %), and violence, drugs and alcohol (20 %). Concern about nutrition was indicated by 14 % of respondents and concern about fitness/exercise was indicated by 3 % of the sample. Factors perceived as making a healthy diet difficult to achieve for their child were child resistance (89 %), the availability of healthy food (72 %), a busy lifestyle (67 %) and the influence of food advertising (63 %). Ninety-two per cent of parents thought that it was realistic for their child to be active for at least 1 h/d, with 75 % of parents feeling that it was realistic for their child to have less than 2 h recreational screen time per d. Despite this, common barriers to achieving the activity guidelines were lack of time, weather and keeping children occupied.

Conclusions: Insights into parental concerns from the current study may be useful in guiding development of interventions to improve children's nutrition and physical activity habits by framing messages in a way that are most likely to resonate with parents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet* / standards
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Parenting*
  • Recreation