Research has consistently documented adverse effects of parent weight-related comments on adolescent health. However, little empirical attention has focused on isolating the impact of weight-related comments from mothers versus fathers, and the valence of their comments. The present study examined the extent to which positive and negative weight-related comments from mothers and fathers are related to adolescent health and wellbeing, and whether these associations differ according to adolescent sociodemographic characteristics.
Data were collected from a diverse sample of 2032 U.S.-based adolescents aged 10–17 years (59% female; 40% White, 25% Black or African American, 23% Latinx). Online questionnaires assessed perceived frequency of negative and positive weight-related comments from mothers and fathers, as well as four indicators of adolescent health and wellbeing: depression, unhealthy weight control behaviors, weight bias internalization (WBI), and body appreciation.
More frequent negative weight-related comments from parents were associated with poorer adolescent health and wellbeing, while positive comments contributed to lower levels of WBI and body appreciation; these associations were documented regardless of whether mothers or fathers were the source of such comments, and considerable consistency was demonstrated across adolescent sociodemographic characteristics.
Findings highlight differences in adolescent health based on how parents discuss their body weight (i.e., negatively or positively), and similarity in associations regardless of whether mothers or fathers are the source of weight communication. These findings reiterate the importance of efforts to educate parents on ways to engage in supportive communication about weight-related health with their children.