Given the key role of parents in the establishment of health habits among children, the current study aims to (1) explore the nature of weight talk among families, (2) understand the correlates and consequences of various forms of family weight talk, and (3) examine the caregiving context (i.e., parenting practices and family wellbeing) as a potential moderator of the associations among parent experiences/beliefs, family weight talk, and child physical and social-emotional health. Parents and their 10- to 12-year-old children responded separately to an online survey assessing family weight talk, child health, and the caregiving context. Parents completed a daily questionnaire about family weight talk for five consecutive days.
Consistent with past research (Berge et al., 2016; Pudney et al., 2019), we found that families engaged in various forms of weight talk over the study period and that this weight talk served a variety of functions. Additionally, this engagement in health and weight-related conversations varied by several parent and child socio-demographic factors, including parent gender, parent and child BMI, race/ethnicity, and parental educational attainment. As expected, more negative parental weight-related experiences/beliefs were associated with more conversations about the child’s, the parent’s, and others’ weight. Health related conversations among families were most strongly related to greater child fruit/vegetable consumption, while weight-related conversations were associated with more snacking, worse quality of life, and worse social-emotional well-being among children. Finally, we found that weight talk can help explain the relations between parent experiences/beliefs and child health outcomes, and that the caregiving context matters for these relations. This work may contribute meaningfully to continued investigation and intervention on how to best support families in working toward greater health and well-being.