July 3, 2009 / 5:33 PM / 10 years ago

Many parents lack confidence in changing behavior

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many parents don’t have enough self-confidence to implement and enforce changes in their child’s behavior that will reduce the child’s risk of obesity, researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston have found.

However, the researchers also found that having the child’s doctor or nurse inquire about the parents’ confidence level can actually help to increase it.

Theorizing that parents with higher self-confidence would be more likely to take on the challenge of changing a child’s unhealthy behavior, Dr. Elsie M. Taveras and colleagues asked 446 parents of overweight children how confident they felt about making the following changes: limiting television viewing, removing TVs from children’s bedrooms, cutting back on fast food, reducing intake of sugary drinks, increasing physical activity, and improving the family’s overall eating habits.

The children ranged in age from 2 to 12 years. Each child’s pediatrician or nurse practitioner was also surveyed.

In the latest issue of Pediatrics, Taveras and colleagues report that the average score on the parent confidence survey was 13 (the lowest possible score was 0 and the highest possible score was 24). Overall, parents were least confident in their ability to remove a TV from their child’s room, to limit TV watching, and to change the family’s eating patterns.

Doctors and nurses were least confident in their ability to counsel parents about encouraging physical activity, limiting TV time, and taking the TV out of the child’s bedroom.

Taveras and colleagues also report that confidence scores were higher in parents with normal weight compared to those who were overweight or obese, as well as in parents with postgraduate degrees compared to parents who had not gone to college.

On the other hand, confidence scores were lower in parents whose children watched more TV or consumed higher amounts of fast food or sugared beverages.

Finally, the investigators found higher confidence levels in parents who said their children’s doctors or nurses had assessed their confidence in making overweight-related changes or their readiness to change.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, July 2009.

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