Assessing Challenges in Low-Income Families to Inform a Life Skills–Based Obesity Intervention

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Background. This article describes the formative research undertaken to explore challenges of low-income parents of 3-to 5-year-olds to inform a parent-focused life skills–based intervention to prevent obesity in preschool-aged children. Method. A total of 40 parents completed surveys, 30 parents participated in focus groups, and 5 community stakeholders participated in individual interviews. In each data mode, participants were asked to prioritize a list of challenges centered on parenting, family care, and self-care. Survey data were analyzed descriptively using SAS, while focus groups and interviews were analyzed for emerging themes using ATLAS.ti. Results. Parents reported needing strategies for managing children’s behavior around picky eating, limits/boundaries, tantrums, and routines. Challenges with child behavior management were compounded by parents’ inability to find affordable fun family activities outside the home and difficulties in communicating childrearing expectations to coparents/relatives who assisted with child care. Added to these were other competing priorities (e.g., financial) that led to the neglect of self, including the inability to find “me” time, build relationships, and care for one’s health. Conclusions. Interventions that address parenting, family care and self-care challenges of low-income parents may enhance resilience and support positive changes that can promote healthy development in children, including obesity prevention.

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