Parenting style and obesity risk in children

Prev Med. 2015 Jun;75:18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.03.005. Epub 2015 Mar 20.


Background: Parents play a critical role in their children's lifestyle habits. The objective was to assess the effect of parenting style on the risk of childhood obesity, and to determine whether poverty was a moderator of the association.

Methods: Participants were from the 1994-2008 cross-sectional samples of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), a nationally representative survey of Canadian youth. Factor and cluster analyses identified four parenting styles consistent with Baumrind's parenting style prototypes. Multivariable logistic regression assessed the risk of obesity based on parenting style after adjusting for covariates. Analyses were stratified by age (preschool: 2-5years of age, n=19,026; school-age: 6-11years of age, n=18,551) and the moderating effect of poverty (household income<low income cut-offs adjusted for household size and geographic region) was assessed. Analyses used sampling and bootstrap weights.

Results: In multivariable analyses, compared to authoritative parenting, preschool- and school-age children with authoritarian parents were 35% (95% CI: 1.2-1.5) and 41% (CI: 1.1-1.8) more likely to be obese, respectively. In preschool children, poverty moderated this association: authoritarian and negligent parenting was associated with 44% (CI: 1.3-1.7) and 26% (CI: 1.1-1.4) increased likelihood of obesity, respectively, but only among the children not living in poverty. In school-age children, poverty was not a moderator.

Conclusions: Parenting style is associated with childhood obesity, but may be moderated by poverty. Successful strategies to combat childhood obesity should reflect the independent and interactive associations of sociodemographic and social-familial influences on health especially in early childhood.

Keywords: Children and adolescents; Obesity; Parenting style; Poverty.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting*
  • Pediatric Obesity*
  • Poverty
  • Risk Factors