Despite their important influence on child health, it is assumed that fathers are less likely than mothers to participate in pediatric obesity treatment and prevention research.


This review investigated the involvement of fathers in obesity treatment and prevention programs targeting children and adolescents (0–18 years).


A systematic review of English, peer-reviewed articles across 7 databases. Retrieved records included at least 1 search term from 2 groups: “participants” (eg, child*, parent*) and “outcomes": (eg, obes*, diet*).


Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing behavioral interventions to prevent or treat obesity in pediatric samples were eligible. Parents must have “actively participated” in the study.


Two authors independently extracted data using a predefined template.


The search retrieved 213 eligible RCTs. Of the RCTs that limited participation to 1 parent only (n = 80), fathers represented only 6% of parents. In RCTs in which participation was open to both parents (n = 133), 92% did not report objective data on father involvement. No study characteristics moderated the level of father involvement, with fathers underrepresented across all study types. Only 4 studies (2%) suggested that a lack of fathers was a possible limitation. Two studies (1%) reported explicit attempts to increase father involvement.


The review was limited to RCTs published in English peer-reviewed journals over a 10-year period.


Existing pediatric obesity treatment or prevention programs with parent involvement have not engaged fathers. Innovative strategies are needed to make participation more accessible and engaging for fathers.

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