To identify changes in maternal beliefs, concerns and perspectives about overweight and obesity in their children over a two year period.
A total of 37 low-income English speaking mothers of overweight or obese children participated in two semi-structured interviews, separated by about two years, (mean child age was 5.9 years at baseline and 8.2 years at follow-up). Mother and child anthropometrics were obtained and mothers completed demographic questionnaires at both time points. Mothers’ interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method for longitudinal patterns of change in their perspectives on childhood obesity across the two time points.
Six longitudinal patterns of change in mothers’ perspectives and beliefs were identified: 1) mothers’ identification of a weight problem in their child emerges gradually, 2) mothers’ level of concern about their child overeating increases, 3) mothers’ concerns about consequences of obesity intensify and change over time, 4) mothers feel less control over their child’s eating and weight, 5) mothers’ efforts to manage eating and weight become more intentional and 6) mothers are more likely to initiate conversations about weight as their child gets older.
In this study, mothers’ concerns about children’s weight and eating habits increased and reported weight management strategies became more intentional over a two year period. Further research should consider attending to maternal perspectives on child weight and eating and their evolution in the development of family based interventions for childhood obesity.