Childhood obesity is a serious epidemic in most western societies. Parents are considered as a key influence in children’s weight-related behaviors. It is thus not surprising that recent interventions to prevent childhood obesity increasingly focus on the role of parents. However, most interventions to date have three limitations. First, they do not focus on children in their first years of life; a sensitive period of life when behavior is highly malleable and unhealthy habits become established. Second, interventions are often developed without the active involvement of parents, resulting in low response rates. Third, recent interventions have mainly focused on specific parenting practices or parental weight-related behaviors without taking the moderating effect of general parenting into account.
Hence, the main aim of this project is to develop and test the intervention Samen Happie!, in which both healthy parenting practices (related to the main risk factors of energy intake and expenditure) and general parenting are manipulated to prevent obesity in early childhood. Our target group consists of parents with a lower socio-economic status, as they and their children are more often overweight and obese than more affluent families.
The intervention will be developed in co-creation with the target group according to a standardized procedure (i.e., intervention mapping) and comprise of two components: a mobile application (the Samen Happie! app) and group meetings for parents at child day care centers. The app mainly focuses on parenting practices, whereas the group meetings focus on more general parenting (the overall ‘how’). The intervention’s effectiveness will be examined in two studies.
- In the first study, we will test the effect of the Samen Happie! app through an RCT with two conditions: (1) an experimental group in which parents use the app, and (2) a waitlist control group in which parents receive the app after the study is finished. We aim to include a total of 300 parents who have a baby aged 7-11 months at the start of the study. The intervention will last for 12 months and measurements on parenting practices, child weight-related behaviors, and child BMI will take place at baseline, 6 months, and post-intervention.
- In the second study, we will assess whether group meetings can have an additional value on top of the Samen Happie! app using quasi-experimental design with three conditions: (1) an experimental group in which parents use the app and receive two group meetings, (2) an experimental group in which parents use the app, and (3) a waitlist control group in which parents receive the app after the study is finished. This study focuses on toddlers (from 24 months) and aims to include 200 parents in total. Measurements on general parenting, child weight-related behaviors, and child BMI will take place at baseline and post-intervention. We will also include a three-month follow-up.