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Positive Parenting, Family Factors Cut Disordered Eating Behaviors

However, these factors are not enough to fully overcome weight-stigmatizing experiences

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 6, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Positive parenting and family factors are associated with a reduced risk for disordered eating behaviors (DEB) but do not fully overcome the influence of weight-stigmatizing experiences on disordered eating in young people, according to a study published online March 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Laura Hooper, Ph.D., R.D., from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues examined whether positive family or parenting factors were protective for DEBs among an ethnically, racially, and socioeconomically diverse sample of 1,568 adolescents with and without weight-stigmatizing experiences.

The researchers found that higher family functioning and support for psychological autonomy were protective for DEBs. However, this pattern was primarily seen among adolescents who did not experience weight stigma, which was prevalent in the sample, with 26.6 percent of participants reporting peer weight teasing, 24.2 percent reporting family weight teasing, and 41.6 percent reporting hurtful weight-related comments from family. Among adolescents who did not experience peer weight teasing, high support for psychological autonomy was associated with a lower prevalence of overeating (high versus low support, 7.0 versus 12.5 percent). Among participants who experienced family weight teasing, the difference in prevalence of overeating based on support for psychological autonomy was not statistically significant (high versus low support, 17.9 versus 22.4 percent).

“The reason for our findings may be that structural weight stigma — like the normalization of unrealistic body ideals — is a strong socioenvironmental stressor for young people,” Hooper said in a statement. “In this context, positive family and parenting factors may help alleviate this stressor, but cannot completely protect young people from the negative effects of overt weight-stigmatizing experiences.”

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