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Open Access Study protocol

Obese parents – obese children? Psychological-psychiatric risk factors of parental behavior and experience for the development of obesity in children aged 0–3: study protocol

Matthias Grube12*, Sarah Bergmann1, Anja Keitel1, Katharina Herfurth-Majstorovic1, Verena Wendt1, Kai von Klitzing2 and Annette M Klein2

Author Affiliations

1 Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1193  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1193

Published: 17 December 2013



The incidences of childhood overweight and obesity have increased substantially and with them the prevalence of associated somatic and psychiatric health problems. Therefore, it is important to identify modifiable risk factors for early childhood overweight in order to develop effective prevention or intervention programs. Besides biological factors, familial interactions and parental behavioral patterns may influence children’s weight development. Longitudinal investigation of children at overweight risk could help to detect significant risk and protective factors. We aim to describe infants’ weight development over time and identify risk and protective factors for the incidence of childhood obesity. Based on our findings we will draw up a risk model that will lay the foundation for an intervention/prevention program.


We present the protocol of a prospective longitudinal study in which we investigate families with children aged from 6 months to 47 months. In half of the families at least one parent is obese (risk group), in the other half both parents are normal weight (control group). Based on developmental and health-psychological models, we consider measurements at three levels: the child, the parents and parent–child-relationship. Three assessment points are approximately one year apart. At each assessment point we evaluate the psychological, social, and behavioral situation of the parents as well as the physical and psychosocial development of the child. Parents are interviewed, fill in questionnaires, and take part in standardized interaction tasks with their child in a feeding and in a playing context in our research laboratory. The quality of these video-taped parent–child interactions is assessed by analyzing them with standardized, validated instruments according to scientific standards.


Strengths of the presented study are the prospective longitudinal design, the multi-informant approach, including the fathers, and the observation of parent–child interaction. A limitation is the variation in children’s age.

Overweight; Obesity; Family; Interaction; Early investigation