Open Access Open Badges Research

Assessing parental self-efficacy for obesity prevention related behaviors

Julie A Wright15*, William G Adams2, Robert G Laforge3, Donna Berry4 and Robert H Friedman5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125, USA

2 Department of General Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, 88 East Newton Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA

3 Department of Psychology, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02818, USA

4 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA

5 Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, 801 Mass Ave, Boston, MA 02118, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:53  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-53

Published: 22 April 2014



Reliable, valid and theoretically consistent measures that assess a parent’s self-efficacy for helping a child with obesity prevention behaviors are lacking.


To develop measures of parental self-efficacy for four behaviors: 1) helping their child get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day, 2) helping one’s child consume five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, 3) limiting sugary drinks to once a week, and 4) limiting consumption of fruit juice to 6 ounces every day.


Sequential methods of scale development were used. An item pool was generated based on theory and qualitative interviews, and reviewed by content experts. Scales were administered to parents or legal guardians of children 4–10 years old. The item pool was reduced using principal component analysis. Confirmatory factor analysis tested the resulting models in a separate sample.


304 parents, majority were women (88%), low-income (61%) and single parents (61%). Ethnic distribution was 40% Black and 37% white.


All scales had excellent fit indices: Comparative fit index > .98 and chi-squares (Pediatrics 120 Suppl 4:S229-253, 2007) = .85 – 7.82. Alphas and one-week test-retest ICC’s were ≥ .80. Significant correlations between self-efficacy scale scores and their corresponding behaviors ranged from .13-.29 (all p < .03).


We developed four, four-item self-efficacy scales with excellent psychometric properties and construct validity using diverse samples of parents.

Trial registration

Clinical trial registration: NCT01768533.

Obesity prevention; Self-efficacy; Scale development; Pediatric primary care; Parents