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Preventing and treating childhood obesity: time to target fathers



To examine the long-term effects of having one overweight or obese parent on child weight status and determine whether these effects vary according to parent sex.


Prospective study: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).


Two-parent families (N=3285) from the LSAC were included if height and weight data were available for both parents and their child at the 2004 and 2008 time points.


Child weight status category (healthy, overweight, obese) in 2008 when the child was aged 8–9 years. Regression modelling was used to investigate how self-reported parent weight status in 2004 influenced measured child weight status 4 years later.


Parent body mass index (BMI) was significantly correlated with child BMI, but there was no evidence of sex-specific associations between parent and child BMI correlations. The results from the regression analysis showed that having an overweight or obese father, but a healthy weight mother, significantly increased the odds of child obesity (odds ratio: 4.18, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.01–17.33 and odds ratio: 14.88, 95% CI: 2.61–84.77, respectively), but the reverse scenario (overweight or obese mother with a healthy weight father) was not a significant predictor of child overweight or obesity (odds ratio: 2.52, 95% CI: 0.38–16.71 and odds ratio: 2.56, 95% CI: 0.31–21.26, respectively).


Children with overweight or obese fathers are at a higher risk of becoming obese. This suggests that interventions are urgently required to test the efficacy of treating overweight fathers as a key strategy for childhood obesity prevention and/or treatment.

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This study was supported by a Strategic Initiatives research grant funded by the Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle. This paper used data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The study was conducted in partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to FaHCSIA, AIFS or the ABS.

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Correspondence to E Freeman.

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Freeman, E., Fletcher, R., Collins, C. et al. Preventing and treating childhood obesity: time to target fathers. Int J Obes 36, 12–15 (2012).

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  • obesity prevention
  • childhood obesity
  • father weight status
  • mother weight status
  • parent intervention

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