Preschooler Obesity and Parenting Styles of Mothers and Fathers: Australian National Population Study Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective

    The purpose of this work was to determine relationships between BMI status at ages 4 to 5 years and mothers' and fathers' parenting dimensions and parenting styles.

    Participants and methods

    Participants were composed of all 4983 of the 4- to 5-year-old children in wave 1 of the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children with complete BMI and maternal parenting data. Mothers and fathers self-reported their parenting behaviors on 3 multi-item continuous scales (warmth, control, and irritability) and were each categorized as having 1 of 4 parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and disengaged) using internal warmth and control tertile cut points. Using a proportional odds model, odds ratios for children being in a higher BMI category were computed for mothers and fathers separately and together, after adjustment for factors associated with child BMI, including mothers' and fathers' BMI status.


    The sample was composed of 2537 boys and 2446 girls with a mean age 56.9 months; 15% were overweight and 5% were obese (International Obesity Task Force criteria). Mothers' parenting behaviors and styles were not associated in any model with higher odds of children being in a heavier BMI category, with or without multiple imputation to account for missing maternal BMI data. Higher father control scores were associated with lower odds of the child being in a higher BMI category. Compared with the reference authoritative style, children of fathers with permissive and disengaged parenting styles had higher odds of being in a higher BMI category.


    This article is the first, to our knowledge, to examine the parenting of both parents in relation to preschoolers' BMI status while also adjusting for parental BMI status. Fathers' but not mothers' parenting behaviors and styles were associated with increased risks of preschooler overweight and obesity. Longitudinal impacts of parenting on BMI gain remain to be determined.

publication date

  • December 1, 2007