Parenting styles and body mass index trajectories from adolescence to adulthood

Health Psychol. 2012 Jul;31(4):441-9. doi: 10.1037/a0027927. Epub 2012 Apr 30.


Objective: Parenting styles such as authoritarian, disengaged, or permissive are thought to be associated with greater adolescent obesity risk than an authoritative style. This study assessed the relationship between parenting styles and changes in body mass index (BMI) from adolescence to young adulthood.

Method: The study included self-reported data from adolescents in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Factor mixture modeling, a data-driven approach, was used to classify participants into parenting style groups based on measures of acceptance and control. Latent growth modeling (LGM) identified patterns of developmental changes in BMI. After a number of potential confounders were controlled for, parenting style variables were entered as predictors of BMI trajectories. Analyses were also conducted for male and female individuals of 3 racial-ethnic groups (Hispanic, black, white) to assess whether parenting styles were differentially associated with BMI trajectories in these 6 groups.

Results: Parenting styles were classified into 4 groups: authoritarian, disengaged, permissive, and balanced. Compared with the balanced parenting style, authoritarian and disengaged parenting styles were associated with a less steep average BMI increase (linear slope) over time, but also less leveling off (quadratic) of BMI over time. Differences in BMI trajectories were observed for various genders and races, but the differences did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusion: Adolescents who reported having parents with authoritarian or disengaged parenting styles had greater increases in BMI as they transitioned to young adulthood despite having a lower BMI trajectory through adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Authoritarianism
  • Automobile Driving
  • Black or African American
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Parenting / ethnology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Permissiveness
  • Young Adult