This study examined the relative contributions of mother's and father's direct comments about child's weight and modeling of weight concerns through their own behavior on child's body esteem, weight-related concerns, and weight loss attempts.
Parents, 131 mothers and 89 fathers, of fourth and fifth grade boys and girls completed a brief survey which included measures of their own dieting attempts, concerns about their own shape, complaints about their own shape, and beliefs about calorie-restrictive dieting as well as the frequency of their comments to their child about the child's weight. Children were surveyed using the Body Esteem Scale as well as questions about their weight-related concerns and weight loss attempts.
Direct parental comments, especially by the mother, seemed to be more powerful influences than parental modeling of weight and shape concerns, although parental modeling did affect the child's beliefs and behaviors. Girls appeared to be more affected than did boys.
Parental comments and modeling do appear to affect elementary school children's weight and shape-related attitudes and behaviors. Such parental behavior may be an appropriate target in prevention programs. © 1999 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 25: 263–271, 1999.