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Parents Fighting Against Obesity

Three women sitting at a table with computers while talking with one another.Clinical psychology doctoral students Mitchell Todd and Irene Brodd worked with psychology faculty Dr. Sarah Domoff and Dr. Larissa Niec to publish their work in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, showing a relationship between child obesity and weak parental relationships. Although childhood obesity is a preventable condition, it is a major issue, especially in the United States. Their research found that a strong relationship between parents and children helps prevent childhood obesity.   

The study looked at different methods of parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) that are meant to encourage healthy eating habits as well as prevent obesity. Although PCIT was originally developed to treat childhood conduct problems, the focus on building a healthy parent-child relationship makes it foundational in the reduction of many childhood problems like obesity.   PCIT first focuses on strengthening or repairing, the parent-child relationship by increasing parent responsiveness. Next, it works on parents giving consistent discipline and effective directions to their children.  It is also important that all caregivers work on enforcing these practices for them to be the most effective. 

Parent-child interaction therapy-health retains the core components of standard PCIT and includes three intervention phases: child-directed interaction, parent-directed interaction, and health-directed interaction (HDI). The rest of their case study focuses on the different steps or sessions of HDI.   

In the first session, HDI coaching teaches the parents different strategies for managing their children's screen time as well as some skills to praise healthy mealtime behavior. The second session works on transitioning the child from screen-time, to mealtime, to playtime. The final coaching session is similar to the second but based in a restaurant where the parents can practice using the skills in public.

At CMU We Do Research, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Bailey Talaska

February 2021