Family Matters

A dark blue circle with the words 'family matters' inside it. Above family is a drawing of a roof with a chimney, and it has a small red heart rising from the chimney. 'Family matters' is written in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish around the circle.

Family Matters seeks to identify how familial factors of racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse children act as risk or protective factors for predicting childhood obesity.

A two-phased, mixed-methods approach is being used.

  • Phase I includes in-home observation of diverse families. Results from these observations will be used to inform the development of a culturally-appropriate survey for Phase II.
  • The Phase II survey will be administered at two time points to a diverse sample of caregivers of children ages 5 to 7.
  • View theoretical model and timeline

This comprehensive evaluation of the home environment will identify potential factors that increase childhood obesity risk in order to create culturally-tailored interventions that will be effective in reducing childhood obesity disparities across diverse groups.

Study details


  • 5- to 7-year-old children and their families were recruited from primary care clinics in the Twin Cities
  • For Phase I, home visits were conducted with 150 families (25 per race/ethnicity: African American, American Indian, Latino, Hmong, Somali, and Caucasian)
  • 1,200 families (200 per race/ethnicity) are being recruited for Phase II to complete a longitudinal survey


Phase I

  • Family members played a “Family Matters” game developed by the research study to measure family interactions
  • Parent completed multiple ecological momentary assessment (EMA) mini-surveys for eight days on a study-provided iPad. Surveys asked about parent's stress level, feeding practices, modeling, etc.
  • Parent and child provided eight days of accelerometry (physical activity) data
  • Collected height and weight data on all family members living in the home
  • Home food inventories
  • Three, 24-hour dietary recalls of 5- to 7-year-old target child
  • Parent completed a qualitative interview regarding family meals, physical activity, and weight talk
  • Parent completed a quantitative survey

See our home visit visual for more information about in-home observation activities

Phase II

  • Parents of 5- to 7-year-olds will complete a longitudinal survey at two time points (baseline and 18 months), measuring parent feeding practices, physical activity, child eating behavior, family dynamics, etc.
  • An up-to-date height and weight will be gathered from primary care clinics for the 5- to 7-year-old child
  • Parents will have the option of completing an additional EMA study. Participants will get three mini-surveys per day on their smartphone. Surveys will measure constructs such as parent stress, family meals, picky eating, etc.



Trofholz A, Thao MS, Donley M, Smith M, Isaac H, Berge JM. (2017). Family Meals Then and Now: A Qualitative Investigation of Intergenerational Transmission of Family Meal Practices in a Racially/Ethnically Diverse and Immigrant Population. Appetite. 

Berge JM, Trofholz A, Tate A, Miner M, Crow S,  Fertig A, Culhane-Perra K, Pergamente S, Neumark-Sztainer D. (2017). Family Matters: An Incremental Mixed-Methods Study to Examine Unanswered Questions about the Home Environment and Childhood Obesity Disparities, Contemporary Clinical Trials, ePub ahead of print.


Ochoa A, Berge JM (2016). Home environmental influences on childhood obesity in the Latino population: A decade review of the literature. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, ePub ahead of print.