Author: Rebecca Kirsty Golley


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Over a quarter of children and two thirds of adults in Australia are overweight, with these estimates reflecting global trends. The literature review in Chapter 1 highlights that treatment of childhood overweight is an important part of the public health approach required to address the obesity epidemic. Energy moderation, behaviour modification and family support are the cornerstones of treatment of childhood overweight. However the evidence to guide best practice is limited, with a call being made for well designed studies to inform age-appropriate effective, long term child weight management. Studies are needed in a range of populations and to assess a range of health outcomes. This thesis tested the hypothesis that, pre-pubertal children whose parents participate in a parent-led, family-focused child weight management intervention comprising parent skills training and intensive lifestyle education will have adiposity, metabolic profiles and indicators of physical and psychosocial functioning after 12 months that are a) improved compared to children wait listed for intervention and b) no different to children whose parents participate in parenting skills training alone (without intensive lifestyle education). Methods of the randomised controlled trial undertaken with 111 overweight, pre-pubertal 6-9 year olds to test this hypothesis are detailed in Chapter 2. Parents were defined as the agents of change, responsible for attending intervention sessions and implementing family-focused lifestyle change to support child weight management. Two interventions, both utilising parenting skills training, but differing in the presence or absence of intensive lifestyle eduction were compared to a group waitlisted for intervention with a brief pamphlet. Program effectiveness was defined in terms of adiposity together with broader health and evaluation outcomes. Chapter 3 describes the study population, their flow through the study, the primary outcome BMI z score and waist circumference z score. With parenting plus intensive lifestyle education there was a 10% reduction in BMI z score over 12 months. However this was not statistically different to the 5% reduction observed with parenting alone or intervention waitlisting. There was a significant reduction in waist circumference between baseline and 12 months with parenting alone and parenting plus lifestyle education, but not waitlisting. There was a group, time and gender interaction, with boys receiving intervention having greater reductions in adiposity. In determining intervention effectiveness, growth, metabolic profile and psychosocial outcomes are presented in Chapter 4. While there were limited improvements in metabolic profile and body dissatisfaction, significant improvements were observed in parent-perceived HR-QOL relating to psychosocial and family functioning. Improvements were confined to the intervention groups, parenting plus lifestyle education more than parenting alone. Chapter 5 presents the study process and impact evaluation. Parents were satisfied with the program and reported that it provided the type of help they wanted. Personal, rather than program factors such as work and family commitments limited intervention attendance to 60%. Child health behaviours and parental weight status show positive change in all groups, but favour intervention. Chapter 6 highlights key findings, study strengths/limitations and areas for further research. In conclusion, a parent-led family-focused intervention utilising parenting skills training and healthy family lifestyle is a promising intervention for young overweight children.

Keywords: child weight management,treatment,parenting skills,healthy lifestyle

Subject: Nutrition thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2006
School: School of Medicine
Supervisor: Professor Lynne Daniels