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Can Family and Parenting Factors Modify the Impact of Weight Stigma on Disordered Eating in Young People? A Population-Based Longitudinal Study

J Adolesc Health. 2023 Mar 11:S1054-139X(23)00071-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.01.024. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Weight stigma is a prevalent problem in adolescents and a risk factor for disordered eating behaviors (DEBs). This study examined whether positive family/parenting factors were protective for DEBs among an ethnically/racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of adolescents with and without weight stigmatizing experiences.

METHODS: In Project Eating and Activity over Time (EAT) 2010-2018, 1,568 adolescents (mean age = 14.4 ± 2.0 years) were surveyed and followed into young adulthood (mean age = 22.2 ± 2.0 years). Modified Poisson regression models examined the relationships between three weight-stigmatizing experiences and four DEBs (e.g., overeating and binge eating) in models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and weight status. Interaction terms and stratified models examined whether family/parenting factors were protective for DEBs based on weight stigma status.

RESULTS: Higher family functioning and support for psychological autonomy were cross sectionally protective for DEBs. However, this pattern was primarily observed in adolescents who did not experience weight stigma. For example, among adolescents who did not experience peer weight teasing, high support for psychological autonomy was associated with lower prevalence of overeating (high support: 7.0%, low support: 12.5%, p = .003). Whereas, in participants who experienced family weight teasing, the difference in prevalence of overeating based on support for psychological autonomy was not statistically significant (high support: 17.9%, low support: 22.4%, p = .260).

DISCUSSION: General positive family and parenting factors did not entirely offset the effects of weight-stigmatizing experiences on DEBs, which may reflect the strength of weight stigma as a risk factor for DEBs. Future research is needed to identify effective strategies family members can use to support youth who experience weight stigma.

PMID:36914449 | DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.01.024

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