Interviewing whole families and basing clinical assessments on the interview is a new approach to the exploration of attitudes surrounding obesity and its management. The present study used it to compare families containing an obese child with a contol group of families containing a child with coeliac disease. Families in the obese group were found to have various characteristic beliefs, experiences, and attitudes related to their condition. The obese condition was more often experienced by the family as a problem than coeliac disease was, and it was felt to be a more intense, pervasive and negative problem. The family members in the obese group felt more responsible for their condition but often preferred to be fat and were not as often actively dealing with their condition. In families with an obese girl, eating was usually out of control. Families of obese children recruited from a school had a more positive attitude to obesity and eating than those recruited through a hospital obesity clinic. The latter families felt a greater sense of stigma, had more negative attitudes toward obesity, and made greater efforts to reduce weight. Various hypotheses to explain the findings are explored.