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July 26, 2013

Parent Conversations and Adolescent Disordered Eating Behaviors

Re-posted from Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders (CCED) blog archives. CCED and The Emily Program partnered in 2014.

Last month, JAMA Pediatrics published a recent study, “Parent Conversations About Healthful Eating and Weight: Associations with adolescent disordered eating behaviors.” The study examined the associations between parent conversations about healthful eating, weight, and adolescent disordered eating behaviors.

This comes at a time when weight-related issues in adolescents are high, and parents are often left to wonder whether discussing eating habits and weight is helpful to a child or detrimental.

Assessments and surveys were completed by adolescents at school, while surveys were completed at home by parents three years ago. The participants were socioeconomically and ethnically diverse with 81 percent an ethnic minority and 60 percent from low-income homes.

The study found children whose parents had weight-related conversations with them were “more likely to diet, use unhealthy weight-control behaviors and engage in binge eating.”

However, children in higher-weight bodies whose mothers engaged in conversations with them that were strictly focused on healthful eating behaviors “were less likely to diet and use unhealthy weight-control behaviors.”

Therefore, the study concluded that parent conversations focused strictly on weight and size put their children at a greater risk for disordered eating behaviors, while conversations focused on healthful eating did not.

One of the questions raised by this study is what “healthful eating” truly means. Stay tuned for a future blog post as we dive into the specifics of healthful foods and behaviors. In the meantime, this study is important to help guide parents away from a focus on size and weight when talking with their children.

You can find the full study published at JAMA Pediatrics.

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