Correlates of Healthy Lifestyle Beliefs and Behaviors in Parents of Overweight or Obese Preschool Children Before and After a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intervention With Text Messaging

Lisa K. Militello, Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, Eric Hekler, Leigh Small, Diana Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Introduction: Significant gaps exist in the published literature regarding the treatment of overweight/obesity in preschool-aged children, especially in primary care settings. Parental influence plays an important factor in the development of healthy behaviors in children, yet there is no consensus about why some behavior change intervention strategies for parents of young children are more influential and effective than others. Objective: The purpose of this secondary data analysis was to assess correlations among the study variables (healthy lifestyle beliefs, perceived difficulty, and healthy lifestyle behaviors) in parents of overweight/obese preschool children. A second aim explored if the parent's level of cognitive beliefs and perceived difficulty of engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors correlated with text messaging cognitive behavioral support. Methods: Fifteen preschool-parent dyads from primary care clinics completed a 7-week cognitive behavioral skills building intervention. Beck's Cognitive Theory guided the intervention content, and Fogg's Behavior Model guided the implementation. The intervention was delivered using a combination of face-to-face clinic visits and ecological momentary interventions using text messaging. Results: Supported are the interconnected relationships among the study variables, that is, parental healthy lifestyle beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. At baseline, parental healthy lifestyle belief scores significantly correlated with perceived difficulty (r s = 0.598, p <.05) and healthy lifestyle behaviors (r s = 0.545, p <.05). These associations strengthened after the intervention. Furthermore, as parental healthy lifestyle beliefs increased and perceived difficulty lessened, their response rate and subsequent feedback lessened to the static text messaging support. Discussion: Findings from this study support the interconnections between parents' thoughts, feelings, and actions toward healthy lifestyles. As parental beliefs became stronger through cognitive behavioral skills building and tailored text messaging, the need for general support via text messaging lessened, warranting additional research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatric Health Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2015



  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Health behavior
  • Mobile
  • Primary care
  • SMS
  • Text messaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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