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Adolescent-parent interactions and attitudes around screen time and sugary drink consumption: a qualitative study

Libby A Hattersley1, Vanessa A Shrewsbury2, Lesley A King1*, Sarah A Howlett1, Louise L Hardy1 and Louise A Baur2

Author Affiliations

1 Physical Activity Nutrition Obesity Research Group, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

2 Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2009, 6:61  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-6-61

Published: 9 September 2009



Little is known about how adolescents and their parents interact and talk about some of the key lifestyle behaviors that are associated with overweight and obesity, such as screen time (ST) and sugary drink (SD) consumption. This qualitative study aimed to explore adolescents' and parents' perceptions, attitudes, and interactions in regards to these topics.


Using an exploratory approach, semi-structured focus groups were conducted separately with adolescents and (unrelated) parents. Participants were recruited from low and middle socio-economic areas in the Sydney metropolitan area and a regional area of New South Wales, Australia. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis for each of the four content areas (adolescent-ST, adolescent-SD consumption, parents' views on adolescents' ST and parents' views on adolescents' SD consumption).


Nine focus groups, with a total of 63 participants, were conducted. Broad themes spanned all groups: patterns of behavior; attitudes and concerns; adolescent-parent interactions; strategies for behavior change; and awareness of ST guidelines. While parents and adolescents described similar patterns of behaviour in relation to adolescents' SD consumption and ST, there were marked differences in their attitudes to these two behaviours which were also evident in the adolescent-parent interactions in the home that they described. Parents felt able to limit adolescents' access to SDs, but felt unable to control their adolescents' screen time.


This study offers unique insights regarding topics rarely explored with parents or adolescents, yet which are part of everyday family life, are known to be linked to risk of weight gain, and are potentially amenable to change.