The following is a summary of “Can Family and Parenting Factors Modify the Impact of Weight Stigma on Disordered Eating in Young People? A Population-Based Longitudinal Study,” published in the July 2023 issue of the Adolescent Health by Hooper et al.
Weight stigma is a pervasive issue among adolescents and a potential risk factor for developing disordered eating behaviors (DEBs). This study investigated whether positive familial and parenting aspects had a protective effect on disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) among a sample of adolescents with varying ethnic/racial backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, both with and without experiences of weight stigmatization. In the Project Eating and Activity over Time (EAT) 2010-2018 study, a total of 1,568 adolescents (with a mean age of 14.4 ± 2.0 years) were surveyed and subsequently monitored until they reached young adulthood (with a mean age of 22.2 ± 2.0 years). The study utilized Modified Poisson regression models to analyze the associations between three weight-stigmatizing experiences and four disordered eating behaviors (DEBs), such as overeating and binge eating.
The models were adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and weight status. Interaction terms and stratified models were utilized to investigate whether family/parenting factors exhibited a protective effect on disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) about weight stigma status. Elevated family functioning and psychological autonomy support demonstrated cross-sectional protective effects against disordered eating behaviors. Nevertheless, this pattern was predominantly observed in adolescents who did not encounter weight stigma. For instance, within the adolescent population who did not experience peer weight teasing, there was a notable correlation between a higher level of psychological autonomy support and a decreased occurrence of overeating (high support: 7.0%, low support: 12.5%, P = .003).
In participants who encountered familial weight teasing, there was no statistically significant variance in the occurrence of overeating when considering the level of support for psychological autonomy (high support: 17.9%, low support: 22.4%, P= .260). Overall, favorable familial and parental aspects could not wholly counterbalance the impact of weight-stigmatizing encounters on disordered eating behaviors (DEBs), potentially indicating the significant influence of weight stigma as a risk factor for DEBs. Further investigation is required to ascertain efficacious methodologies that family members can employ to assist adolescents with weight stigma.