Parent-child interaction therapy as a prevention model for childhood obesity: A novel application for high-risk families

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Childhood obesity is a formidable public health issue in the United States. Although childhood obesity risk is complex and influenced by multiple systems and individual domains, there is increasing appreciation for the impact of the family environment generally, and parent-child interactions specifically, on children's levels of risk. Longitudinal research has identified parenting style and quality of parent-child interactions as important targets for reducing child obesity risk. Although, obesity prevention programs have attempted to change general parenting practices to prevent obesity (Haines et al., 2016; Harvey-Berino & Rourke, 2003; Østbye et al., 2012), no prevention efforts, to date, have attempted to change the parent-child relationship to reduce young children's obesity risk. In this paper, we describe the rationale for and development of an innovative prevention program: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy-Health (PCIT-Health). First, we review the risk factors for the onset of obesity during childhood and assess current approaches to preventing child obesity, including limitations. Next, we articulate the theoretical links and empirical evidence that make PCIT a logical model to reduce the risk for childhood obesity. Finally, we describe the adaptation of the standard PCIT model into the PCIT-Health model and conclude with next steps for evaluating the adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Childhood obesity
  • Low-income
  • Parent-child interaction therapy
  • Parent-child relationship
  • Parenting
  • Self-regulation


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