Adolescent obesity and maternal and paternal sensitivity and monitoring

R. Neal Davis, Jacqueline Ashba, Danielle P. Appugliese, Niko Kaciroti, Robert F. Corwyn, Robert Bradley, Julie C. Lumeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine if adolescent obesity is associated with parenting characterized by lower sensitivity and lower monitoring of adolescent activities. Methods. We used data from 744 adolescents in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Height and weight were measured at age 15 1/2 years and obesity defined as body mass index ≥ 95th percentile for age and sex. Maternal and paternal sensitivity were assessed by direct observation of a parent-adolescent interaction task. Maternal and paternal monitoring were assessed by parent report. Lower sensitivity and lower monitoring were each defined as the lowest quartiles. Two separate multivariate logistic regression models were created to evaluate, individually for mothers and fathers, associations of sensitivity and monitoring with adolescent obesity, controlling for adolescent sex and race, family income-to-needs ratio, and parental obesity. Results. Fourteen percent of the adolescents were obese. Lower sensitivity was associated with adolescent obesity in the maternal parenting model (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.44-3.86, n = 709), but not paternal parenting model (AOR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.38-1.63, n = 460). Neither maternal nor paternal monitoring was associated with adolescent obesity (AOR = 1.03, 95% CI 0.63-1.68; AOR = 1.07, 95% CI 0.52-2.22, respectively). Conclusion. Lower maternal sensitivity, measured by direct observation of parent-adolescent interactions, was associated with adolescent obesity. Efforts to prevent and treat childhood obesity, both at the practitioner level and the community level, may be enhanced by educating parents that their reactions to their children's behaviors may have consequences related to obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e457-e463
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Obesity
Issue number2 -2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Adolescent
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Obesity
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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