STRONG Kids Program Subproject: Family Health Awareness Study


Families provide an important context for understanding early social transmission of health behaviors, including those that affect childhood and adolescent food and activity habits, body image, and weight. Parental weight-related healthy literacy, knowledge and perceptions of early body image development, and strategies for teaching kids to cope with weight bias and teasing may contribute to intergenerational transmission processes, but have not been studied. A better understanding of how families confer risk or resources to boost resiliency in children with regards to healthy lifestyle and body image is needed, and may lead to more effective family interventions to prevent and treat childhood overweight and promote family wellness. Phase I of the Family Health Awareness Study draws upon 30-60 minute structured interviews (n=40) conducted with parents of preschoolers. The goal of this study is to contribute measurement tools and knowledge that can be used to tailor interventions for parents and families that enhance health literacy regarding child weight management and food media messaging; promote positive body image development; and empower families to identify, use, and apply relevant health information to prevent childhood overweight and obesity.

The aims of Phase I of the Family Health Awareness (FHA) Study are as follows:

  • To understand and describe how parents perceive body image, the construction of body image within a family context, the effects of body teasing in families, risks of bodily teasing, and resiliency against body teasing. These findings, in conjunction with Panel Survey data, will be used to validate a family body and weight teasing scale under development.
  • To understand and describe parental perceptions, knowledge, and routines regarding weight-related health habits in families (e.g., food, weight, weight management, activity, sleep) and how parents navigate and use related health information. These findings, in conjunction with Panel Survey data, will be used to develop a measure of weight-related health literacy.
  • To understand and describe parents' degree of critical thinking about media messages (food ads) targeting children. These findings, in conjunction with Panel Survey data, will be used to develop a measure of media messages health literacy.

Research Team

  • Janet Liechty, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work and College of Medicine
  • Samantha Clarke, Graduate Student, Social Work
  • Rachael Moore, Graduate Student, Social Work


  • Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR) Sentinel Program Seed Grant, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois
  • Illinois Department of Human Services, Bureau of Child Care and Development
  • Office of the Provost, University of Illinois
  • Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Illinois
  • Family Resiliency Center, University of Illinois


Janet Liechty
Principal Investigator
Phone: 217-265-0577