Nationally representative studies estimate that almost one in five adolescents in the United States is overweight. This is a major concern for individuals' physical and psychological health and the overall economy in terms of health care costs and loss of productivity. The approach of this study was to understand adolescent overweight as influenced by family processes including: parent-adolescent relationship, monitoring or parental knowledge, control, family meals, and parenting styles. Race, sex, family structure, income, and mother Body Mass Index (BMI) were also included. A sub-sample of 4,688 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 was used to address the association between family processes, demographic variables, and adolescent Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile over four years. Due to the inclusion of siblings in the sample, the data are non-independent. Longitudinal multilevel modeling was used to adjust for this non-independence. The final model indicated that frequency of family meals, sex, race, father's parenting style, control, and mother's BMI were important predictors of adolescent BMI percentile over time. Mother's BMI was the strongest predictor of adolescent BMI percentile. More frequent family meals led to decreases in BMI percentile over time, while males, African Americans, and Latinos had higher average BMI percentiles than other groups. These findings suggest the need for intervention that focuses on mother's health and healthy behaviors in the home. At risk groups, including African American and Latino adolescents and males, should be targeted for these interventions. Additionally, the results indicated that using multilevel modeling with the NLSY97 was important due to nesting within families.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life



Date Submitted


Document Type





Family processes, adolescent, weight, BMI, demographic, race, income, food