Perspectives of obese children and their parents on lifestyle behavior change: a qualitative study

Background:
In order to improve and optimize future behavioral family lifestyle intervention programs, more information on the perceptions of obese children and their parents of these programs is needed. As such, the aim of this qualitative study is 1) to explore the expectations of obese children and their parents in relation to lifestyle interventions; 2) to identify barriers to making lifestyle changes that parents and children face within their social context (within the family, at school and amongst friends and peers) as well as the things that facilitate these changes and 3) to identify the needs of obese children and their parents in the context of a lifestyle intervention.
Methods:
A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted. Interviewees were participants in a lifestyle intervention program in the Netherlands.
Results:
Eighteen children (mean age 10 years) and 24 parents were interviewed. The respondents expected to lose weight by being physically active or by eating healthily. Parents struggled with adopting and adhering to new rules and the absence of support of family members. Children struggled with inconsistent parenting and a lack of support from their parents. Bullying experienced at school impeded the children in their ability to make the necessary changes. Support from peers, on the other hand, stimulated their progress. Parents identified the need for the general practitioner to discuss overweight in a non-offensive way and to show an interest in the process of weight loss.
Conclusions:
Participants in a lifestyle behavior intervention program benefit from parental support and help from their (extended) family, peers and friends. They would also profit from the sustained involvement of their general practitioner in assisting in the maintenance of lifestyle behavior changes.

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