Objective The aim of the study was to investigate the role of parental involvement and the inclusion of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques in the regulation of children’s overweight.
Methods Forty-five overweight children aged 7–12 years were assigned to one of two CBT groups, “child alone”, “child and parent as helper” (Ch+P), or to the usual care group (UC), without CBT techniques but with increased parental responsibility. All children in the first two groups attended 12-weekly individual sessions and were encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle. Anthropometric, dietary and physical activity parameters were assessed at the end of the intervention and at 6 months after baseline.
Results Only the Ch+P and the UC groups significantly reduced their percentage overweight at 6 months compared with baseline values (31.9 ± 20.8% vs 35.9 ± 18.8%, p = 0.011 and 36.3 ± 17.2% vs 42.8 ± 18%, p = 0.002, respectively). Although no significant differences were found between the three groups with regards to most dietary and physical activity parameters measured, within-group analysis revealed that the UC group managed significantly to reduce total energy intake (p<0.001) and screen time (p = 0.013). The degree of parental participation and the inclusion of CBT techniques emerged as the two most important factors in discriminating a successful reduction in the percentage overweight.
Conclusion The results highlight primarily the importance of parental influence and secondarily the inclusion of CBT techniques on managing children’s overweight.