Parental Motivations to Discuss Unhealthy Eating and Marijuana Use with their Children
Objective: Adolescent engagement in health risk behaviors, such as unhealthy eating and marijuana use, remains a significant issue in the United States. Parents are an important component in preventing their children from engaging in behaviors that could harm their health and well-being. Parent motivations to have discussions about these behaviors with their child may be influenced by their parenting dynamics (i.e., attachment styles, parenting styles, and parent-child communication), and other cognitive factors (i.e., perceived risks, prototypes, self-efficacy, coherence, worry, intentions and willingness). Little is known about how these factors might influence parent decisions to discuss unhealthy eating and marijuana use with their children.
Methods: In a series of three studies, parent motivations to discuss unhealthy eating and marijuana use with their child was explored. Guided by an adapted Prototype-Willingness Model (PWM), Study 1 tested the associations of parenting dynamics; specific risks and prototypes of unhealthy eating and marijuana use by one’s child; levels of self-efficacy, coherence in understanding behavioral risks, worry, discussion intentions and discussion willingness on parental discussions about unhealthy eating and marijuana use with their child (N = 208); Study 2 tested the relationship of messages framed according to authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting styles on youth’s perceived effectiveness, perceived interpretability, motivations to discuss behavior, and discussion similarity in promoting discussion of unhealthy eating and marijuana use with a parent (N = 393); and Study 3, a longitudinal study with a national sample of parents, tested the effects of unhealthy eating and marijuana use discussion tools on parent discussions with their child about these behaviors one month later (N = 318).
Results: In Study 1, the findings supported most of the hypothesized relationships delineated by the adapted PWM, suggesting the potential utility of parenting styles and cognitive factors (e.g., self-efficacy, intentions) in motivating parent discussions with their child about unhealthy eating and marijuana use. In Study 2, the authoritative parenting-framed message on talking with one’s parent about unhealthy eating and marijuana use was perceived by youth as the most effective in motivating discussions about these behaviors compared to the authoritarian and permissive parenting-framed messages. In Study 3, the findings partially supported the moderating effects of parenting styles on some of the relationships between discussion tools and other cognitive (e.g., self-efficacy, intentions) factors.
Conclusions: The results of these studies provide new evidence about the relationship of parenting styles and the adapted PWM framework in motivating parental discussions of unhealthy eating and marijuana use with their children. However, there is a need for further investigation on how these newly developed discussion tools can motivate discussion of health risk behaviors with children. Subsequent research should be directed at a larger longitudinal study examining the effects of the authoritatively-framed discussion tools of unhealthy eating and marijuana use in promoting open discussion about these behaviors in families.