Childhood Obesity: The Perceptions and Experiences of Overweight Children and Their Parents

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Tracy Gemmell


Childhood obesity continues to grow in the UK despite multiple prevention and intervention strategies. Research on childhood obesity has tended to focus on quantitative research with parents of overweight children, however recently there has been some qualitative studies done with parents and research is beginning to emerge with overweight children themselves. The purpose of this thesis was therefore to draw together the available qualitative research with parents and to undertake an original piece of qualitative research with overweight children. Paper one is a meta-synthesis of qualitative papers examining parents' perceptions, experiences, beliefs and attitudes to parenting their overweight child. This review involved four phases; systematically searching the literature, applying inclusion/exclusion criteria, undertaking a quality appraisal of the studies and synthesising the findings. Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria and two over-arching themes were identified; ambivalence and responsibility. Ambivalence encompassed the sub-themes recognition, parents' own weight history, uncertainty, and feeding and emotion. The sub-themes resources, attribution and parenting difficulties formed the over-arching theme of responsibility. These findings are discussed in relation to the importance of including parents in childhood weight management interventions and suggestions about what these programmes should focus on in order to be effective. The second paper is an original research study which explored overweight children's perceptions of their size, and how this affected their self-view. Six participants, aged 8-12, were interviewed and the data was analysed using a combination of Thematic Analysis and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Four themes labelled; recognition, self-view, beliefs about exercise and weight loss, and making sense of eating were identified. The over-arching theme labelled minimisation was found to run through the other themes. These finding are discussed in relation to previous studies, along with their clinical implications and the possible directions for future research.The final paper is a critical appraisal which outlines my experiences of carrying out qualitative research with overweight children and their families. It outlines why I chose this project, and my observations and reflections on undertaking the study. It also discusses what I have learnt from the experience and what I will take forward into my career as a clinical psychologist. Finally it discusses the findings from the thesis as a whole and the possible clinical implications and directions for future research.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2013