Posted July 10, 2013

Do mothers’ dieting and weight loss efforts affect their kids?

Parents play an essential role in many areas of their children’s lives, from success in school to friendships and even future romantic relationships. But can a mother’s efforts to lose weight have an effect on her children’s weight? That will be the focus of EMPOWER, a year-long Temple University pilot study that begins this fall.

“There are a lot of studies that demonstrate how children’s eating and physical activity habits mirror their mothers’,” said Katherine W. Bauer, assistant professor of public health in Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work and the study’s lead researcher. “Mothers also serve as gatekeepers to healthy opportunities at home. For example, mothers are often responsible for grocery shopping and what food is brought into the home.”

She said the researchers will be exploring whether working directly with mothers to help them eat better and take care of themselves will have a trickle-down effect on their pre-teen and teenage children, perhaps preventing future obesity among these children.

“There are already programs out there that focus on how to help children who are overweight improve their health habits, and these programs tend to instruct parents how to change and monitor their child’s behavior,” said Bauer, who is also faculty member in Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE). “With this study, we are saying to moms, ‘do something for yourself; take care of your health,’ which mothers don’t usually do. Take time to get yourself healthy and perhaps it will have a positive effect on your children.”

The study will examine 66 mothers with children between the ages of 11-16, with the first weight loss group beginning in September. Mothers will participate in CORE’s three-month weight loss program, during which they will come to CORE once a week for group sessions.

Bauer is currently recruiting mother-children pairs for the study. Mothers who are overweight, desire to lose weight and have children between the ages of 11-16 can contact CORE at 215- 707-5782 or email to find out more about the study.

The study is being funded through a Temple College of Health Professions and Social Work Research Seed Grant.