Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Body weight dissatisfaction and communication with parents among adolescents in 24 countries: international cross-sectional survey

Haleama Al Sabbah12*, Carine A Vereecken1, Frank J Elgar3, Tonja Nansel4, Katrin Aasvee6, Ziad Abdeen2, Kristiina Ojala7, Namanjeet Ahluwalia5 and Lea Maes1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

2 Nutrition and Health Research Institute, Al Quds University, Al Quds, Palestine

3 Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

4 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD, USA

5 INSERM U558, Faculty of Medicine, Toulouse, France

6 Department of Chronic Diseases, National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia

7 Department of Health Sciences, Research Center for Health Promotion, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-52

Published: 6 February 2009



Parents have significant influence on behaviors and perceptions surrounding eating, body image and weight in adolescents. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of body weight dissatisfaction, difficulty in communication with the parents and the relationship between communication with parents and adolescents' dissatisfaction with their body weight (dieting or perceived need to diet).


Survey data were collected from adolescents in 24 countries and regions in Europe, Canada, and the USA who participated in the cross-sectional 2001/2002 Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children (HBSC) study. The association between communication with parents and body weight dissatisfaction was examined using binary logistic regression analysis.


Body weight dissatisfaction was highly prevalent and more common among girls than boys, among overweight than non-overweight, and among older adolescents than younger adolescents. Difficulty in talking to father was more common than difficulty in talking to mother in all countries and it was greater among girls than among boys and increased with age. Difficulties in talking to father were associated with weight dissatisfaction among both boys and girls in most countries. Difficulties in talking to mother were rarely associated with body weight dissatisfaction among boys while among girls this association was found in most countries.


The findings suggest that enhanced parent communication might contribute in most countries to less body dissatisfaction in girls and better communication with the father can help avoiding body weight dissatisfaction in boys. Professionals working with adolescents and their families should help adolescents to have a healthy weight and positive body image and promote effective parent – adolescent communication.