Effect of a Responsive Parenting Educational Intervention on Childhood Weight Outcomes at 3 Years of Age: The INSIGHT Randomized Clinical Trial

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Rapid growth and elevated weight status in early childhood increase risk for later obesity, but interventions that improve growth trajectories are lacking.


To examine effects of a responsive parenting intervention designed to promote developmentally appropriate, prompt, and contingent responses to a child’s needs on weight outcomes at 3 years.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A single-center randomized clinical trial comparing a responsive parenting intervention designed to prevent childhood obesity vs a home safety intervention (control) among 279 primiparous mother-child dyads (responsive parenting group, 140; control group, 139) who enrolled and completed the first home visit from January 2012 through March 2014 with follow-up to age 3 years (completed by April 2017).


Research nurses conducted 4 home visits during infancy and annual research center visits. The responsive parenting curriculum focused on feeding, sleep, interactive play, and emotion regulation. The control curriculum focused on safety.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome was body mass index (BMI) z score at 3 years (z score of 0 represents the population mean; 1 and −1 represent 1 SD above and below the mean, respectively). BMI percentile at 3 years was designated previously as the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included the prevalence of overweight (BMI ≥85th percentile and <95th percentile) and obesity (BMI ≥95th percentile) at 3 years.


Among 291 mother-child dyads randomized, 279 received the first home visit and were included in the primary analysis. 232 mother-child dyads (83.2%) completed the 3-year trial. Mean age of the mothers was 28.7 years; 86% were white and 86% were privately insured. At age 3 years, children in the responsive parenting group had a lower mean BMI z score (−0.13 in the responsive parenting group vs 0.15 in the control group; absolute difference, −0.28 [95% CI, −0.53 to −0.01]; P = .04). Mean BMI percentiles did not differ significantly (47th in the responsive parenting group vs 54th in the control group; reduction in mean BMI percentiles of 6.9 percentile points [95% CI, −14.5 to 0.6]; P = .07). Of 116 children in the responsive parenting group, 13 (11.2%) were overweight vs 23 (19.8%) of 116 children in the control group (absolute difference, −8.6% [95% CI, −17.9% to 0.0%]; odds ratio [OR], 0.51 [95% CI, 0.25 to 1.06]; P = .07); 3 children (2.6%) in the responsive parenting group were obese vs 9 children (7.8%) in the control group (absolute difference, −5.2% [95% CI, −10.8% to 0.0%]; OR, 0.32 [95% CI, 0.08 to 1.20]; P = .09).

Conclusions and Relevance

Among primiparous mother-child dyads, a responsive parenting intervention initiated in early infancy compared with a control intervention resulted in a modest reduction in BMI z scores at age 3 years, but no significant difference in BMI percentile. Further research is needed to determine the long-term effect of the intervention and assess its efficacy in other settings.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01167270

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