Although children’s media consumption has been one of the most robust risk factors for childhood obesity, effects of specific parenting influences, such as parental media monitoring, have not been effectively investigated.
To examine the potential influences of maternal and paternal monitoring of child media exposure and children’s general activities on body mass index (BMI) in middle childhood.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A longitudinal study, taken from a subsample of the Three Generational Study, a predominantly white, Pacific Northwest community sample (overall participation rate, 89.6%), included assessments performed from June 1998 to September 2012. Analyses included 112 mothers, 103 fathers, and their 213 children (55.4% girls) at age 5, 7, and/or 9 years. Participation rates ranged from 66.7% to 72.0% of all eligible Three Generational Study children across the 3 assessments.
Parents reported on their general monitoring of their children (whereabouts and activities), specific monitoring of child media exposure, children’s participation in sports and recreational activities, children’s media time (hours per week), annual income, and educational level. Parental BMI was recorded.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Predictions to level and change in child BMI z scores were tested.
Linear mixed-effects modeling indicated that more maternal, but not paternal, monitoring of child media exposure predicted lower child BMI z scores at age 7 years (95% CI, −0.39 to −0.07) and less steeply increasing child BMI z scores from 5 to 9 years (95% CI, −0.11 to −0.01). These effects held when more general parental monitoring, and parent BMI, annual income, and educational level were controlled for. The significant negative effect of maternal media monitoring on children’s BMI z scores at age 7 years was marginally accounted for by the effect of child media time. The maternal media monitoring effect on children’s BMI z score slopes remained significant after adjustment for children’s media time and sports and recreational activity.
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings suggest that parental behaviors related to children’s media consumption may have long-term effects on children’s BMI in middle childhood. They underscore the importance of targeting parental media monitoring in efforts to prevent childhood obesity.