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Mother's Attitude Affects Adolescent Weight Perception

When mothers think weight status matters, children want to be thinner

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who place importance on weight status are likely to have children who are preoccupied with being thinner and dieting to get there, according to a study published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Alison E. Field, Sc.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of 5,331 girls and 3,881 boys aged 11.8 to 18.4 years and their mothers. The study was based on a questionnaire that asked for information on weight, height and weight concerns.

Only 8.1% of boys thought about wanting to be thinner, and those who accurately perceived that their mother placed high value on thinness were 3.8 times more likely than their peers to think about being thinner.

Among the girls, 33% frequently thought about being thinner and those who accurately perceived that thinness mattered to their mother were 2.85 times more likely to think about it than their peers. Girls who erroneously assumed that thinness was important to their mother were 1.9 times more likely to think about being thinner. Frequent dieters were more common among those adolescents who accurately perceived that their weight was important to their mother.

"Parents should be encouraged to be role models in incorporating physical activity and healthy nutrition into everyday lifestyle patterns, rather than implementing them as weight-control strategies," the authors conclude.

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