Among adolescent girls, weight-related problems such as body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and use of extreme methods to lose weight are highly prevalent, inter-related, and deleterious to girls’ health and well-being
. In an effort to identify risk factors for the development of weight-related problems among adolescent girls, several cross-sectional (e.g.
[2–7]) and longitudinal (e.g.
[8–10]) studies have examined the potential roles of parental behavior and parent–child interactions around weight, body shape and size, and dieting. This body of work has generally suggested that excessive talk about weight by families is correlated with harmful behaviors in youth. Specifically, direct weight talk, or comments directed toward the adolescent regarding their weight and dieting, have been found to be associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms, preoccupation with weight loss, and unhealthy weight control behaviors in cross-sectional studies among adolescent girls
[4–7, 11]. Some have hypothesized that indirect weight talk, or that for which the child is not the focus, such as a mother’s comments about her own weight, may have less of an association with adolescents’ negative outcomes; however, the body of literature on indirect weight talk is small and has produced inconsistent findings
Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)
 provides a basis for understanding the role of parental weight talk in adolescent girls’ health beliefs and behaviors. SCT suggests that environmental and personal factors interact to affect health behaviors. Sociocultural values and norms can be communicated and intensified through behavior modeling by others to influence individuals’ personal beliefs and behaviors. Thus, the pervasive cultural importance placed on slenderness for girls may be further emphasized through mothers’ modeling of weight-related beliefs and behaviors through direct and indirect weight talk
. These environmental factors of social norms and parental behavior modeling may then contribute to girls’ personal beliefs about her body and weight, as well as general psycho-social health, which in turn influence her weight-related behaviors.
The majority of studies exploring associations between parental behaviors, including family weight talk, and adolescents’ weight-related problems have utilized data reported by the youth themselves. For example, in a recent review of both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies examining parental correlates of youths’ body image disturbance and disordered eating, 41 of 56 studies included data only reported by adolescents
. Studies that assess adolescent-perceived parental behavior have fairly consistently observed associations between parental behavior and adolescent outcomes
[12, 18, 19]. Meanwhile, examinations of parent-reported behavior have yielded mixed results
[2, 18, 19]. Several suggestions have been offered for why adolescents’ report has been more strongly tied to adolescents’ behavior than parents’ report, including that adolescents who are preoccupied with their weight and engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors perceive their parents’ actions to be about weight or encouraging of dieting even if the parent did not intend for it to be so
. Regardless of the reason why adolescents’ perceptions are more predictive of their own behavior, a perception by researchers that parents’ perspective of family weight talk is less important
 limits identification of potential intervention opportunities with families. With little research utilizing parent report of weight talk, researchers and clinicians are left unsure whether parents’ behavior is a priority target area for intervention, or whether working with the adolescent directly to alter their perceptions of family weight talk may be sufficient to reduce risk.
Given the importance of understanding the role of family weight talk, both direct and indirect, in adolescent girls’ cognitions and behaviors, this study aims to examine the cross-sectional relationships between mother-reported parental weight talk and a wide range of daughters’ outcomes including depression, self-esteem, use of weight control behaviors, and prevalence of binge eating. This study draws upon a socio-demographically diverse sample of high school-aged girls, an important addition to the literature as many previous studies of weight control and disordered eating outcomes have utilized primarily higher socio-economic status, Caucasian study populations
[8, 21, 22], despite the comparable prevalence of unhealthy weight control behaviors and low body satisfaction among adolescents from many racial and ethnic groups