BACKGROUND: As most young teenagers grow up in families, parents might be well situated to facilitate and support their weight management and thereby prevent or manage obesity prior to adulthood.
AIM: This paper explores parents' perceptions of, and views about, their teenage children's weight and the factors that influence parents' weight management strategies.
DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: We conducted two qualitative studies in Scotland, UK, involving in-depth interviews with the parents of overweight/obese and 'normal' weight 13-15 year olds (n = 69).
FINDINGS: Parents' concerns about their own weight provided useful context for understanding their attitudes or actions with regards to their teenage child. Some parents described their teenager's weight as being of concern to them, although puberty often introduced confusion about a child's weight status. Genetic explanations were very often put forward as a way of making sense of teenage weight or body size. Frustration about advising teenagers about weight management was expressed, and some parents worried about giving their growing child a 'problem' if they directly raised concerns about weight with them.
DISCUSSION: Parents' views about their own weight as well as social and moral norms about labelling a teenager as overweight or as needing help with their weight could usefully inform patient-centred service development. Parent/teenage partnerships and supporting parents to create a healthy home in which teenagers can make healthier choices are suggestions for intervention development.
CONCLUSION: The study highlights the importance of taking parents' perceptions into account when developing family-based interventions to address teenage overweight and obesity.