A Parent Intervention for Improving Physical Activity and Diet in Adolescents

Project: Research project

Project Details


The increasing prevalence of obesity in youth has become a public health crisis, especially for minority adolescents. Behaviors that have been shown to be effective in reducing obesity (i.e., sedentary behavior (SB), physical activity (PA), diet) in youth are influenced by their parents and peer interactions. Preliminary focus groups conducted by the fellowship candidate suggest that because African American caregivers are engaging in many positive parenting behaviors such as monitoring, expanding these practices to specifically target their adolescent's health behaviors is promising. Previous studies also indicate that parents may play a role in shaping health behaviors by monitoring their own child's behavior in addition to their child's peer relationships. Furthermore, the balance between setting limits and autonomy around health behaviors may be based on a set of interactions in which adolescents and parents collaborate in the decision-making process. While interventions that have sought to improve PA and diet in African American families, few have included parent components around rules and monitoring in adolescents. Furthermore, few have targeted parental management of peer interactions around these behaviors. The purpose of this project is to test the feasibility of a novel 8-week interactive parent intervention that targets parent variables (i.e., rules, autonomy support, monitoring) to facilitate peer interactions which decrease SB and consumption of unhealthy (i.e., high fat, high sugar) foods and increase PA and fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption in African American adolescents. Seventy adolescents and their caregivers will be randomized to either an interactive parent-based intervention (IPB) or a general health education program (GHE). The IPB intervention is based on Social Cognitive Theory and will target parent variables through 8 weekly sessions designed to teach parents how to further refine their parenting strategies (i.e., rules, autonomy support, monitoring) in order to effectively impact the relationship between peer interactions and adolescent self-efficacy and self-concept specific to SB, PA, and diet. The essential elements of the intervention include: rules, autonomy support, monitoring, peer support, adolescent self-efficacy and self-concept. The GHE program will also include 8 weekly group sessions on general health issues. It is hypothesized that adolescents in the IPB group will demonstrate greater reductions in SB and consumption of high-fat/high sugar foods and greater increases PA and FV consumption compared to those in the GHE group. Similarly, it is hypothesized that caregivers and adolescents will demonstrate greater improvements in parent variables (rules, autonomy support, monitoring) and self-efficacy and self-concept specific to SB, PA, and diet in the IPB intervention compared with caregivers and adolescents in the GHE group at post-intervention, respectively. Finally, this study will explore whether changes in key variables (e.g., peer support, rules, monitoring, and adolescent self-efficacy) may mediate the effect of the intervention on changes in adolescent SB, PA, diet in the IPB group at 8-weeks post-intervention.
Effective start/end date8/15/107/31/13


  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $26,232.00
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $32,384.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $90,580.00


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