Engaging Children to Support Parental Weight Loss: A Randomized Trial

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Health Education and Behavior








behavior change; chaos; child support; obesity; social network; social support


Background. Despite evidence that social network members influence the eating behaviors of adults, no study to date has had the primary aim of examining children as support partners for parents in a weight loss intervention. Aim. To evaluate parent adherence with eating/exercise goals and weight loss in a 6-month study engaging children as support partners. Method. Adults with obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m , n = 102) and at least one child ≥12 years were randomized to a child support or control group. In the child support group, children enrolled with their parent and engaged in a supportive behavior 2 days/week. In the control group, there was no enrolled child support. Parents in both groups selected a healthy eating strategy and daily step goal. Results. There was no difference in weight loss between the child support and control groups (−5.97 vs. −5.42 lbs, p =.81). In the child support group, 30% of children did not engage in the study. The majority of parents whose children did not engage withdrew from the study. In secondary analyses, parent adherence with eating/exercise goals increased with the days of child support (p <.001). For all participants, low chaos in the home environment (p <.04) and increased parent adherence with follow-ups (p <.008) predicted weight loss. Conclusions. We found no treatment effect of child support on weight loss. Active child support of eating/exercise goals appeared to facilitate goal adherence, while anticipated but unrealized child support may have had iatrogenic consequences. Further investigation of family-focused weight loss interventions is warranted. 2