British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Childhood obesity treatment: targeting parents exclusively v. parents and children

Moria Golana1a2 c1, Vered Kaufmana1 and Danit R. Shahara1a3

a1 School of Nutritional Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

a2 Shahaf, Community Comprehensive Services for Eating Disorders, Israel

a3 The S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel


There is a consensus that interventions to prevent and treat childhood obesity should involve the family; however, the extent of the child's involvement has received little attention. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the relative efficacy of treating childhood obesity via a family-based health-centred intervention, targeting parents alone v. parents and obese children together. Thirty-two families with obese children of 6–11 years of age were randomised into groups, in which participants were provided for 6 months a comprehensive educational and behavioural programme for a healthy lifestyle. These groups differed in their main agent of change: parents-only v. the parents and the obese child. In both groups, parents were encouraged to foster authoritative parenting styles (parents are both firm and supportive; assume a leadership role in the environmental change with appropriate granting of child's autonomy). Only the intervention aimed at parents-only resulted in a significant reduction in the percentage overweight at the end of the programme (P=0·02) as well as at the 1-year follow-up meeting.The differences between groups at both times were significant (P<0·05). A greater reduction in food stimuli in the home (P<0·05) was noted in the parents-only group. In both groups, the parents' weight status did not change. Regression analysis shows that the level of attendance in sessions explained 28% of the variability in the children's weight status change, the treatment group explained another 10%, and the improvement in the obesogenic load explained 11% of the variability. These results suggest that omittingthe obese child from active participation in the health-centred programme may be beneficial for weight loss and for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among obese children.

(Received August 22 2005)

(Revised January 23 2006)

(Accepted January 24 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Moria Golan, fax +972 8 934 8953,