Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Bryce D. McLeod, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Melanie K. Bean, Ph.D.


Pediatric obesity is a major public health epidemic with serious physical and psychological consequences. Difficulty engaging families in treatment is a significant obstacle in addressing pediatric obesity, especially among underserved populations. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative, person-centered communication style that has been shown to reduce attrition, increase attendance, and improve patient treatment adherence; however, little is known about the process of MI and how it improves treatment engagement. This study examined clinician and parent language in a pre-treatment MI session that increased initial engagement in a parent- focused pediatric obesity intervention (N= 81). Results showed that increased parent change talk, and preparatory language in particular, was positively related to the likelihood of initial attendance at baseline. Additionally, certain types of MI consistent clinician strategies were positively associated with parent change talk. Complex positive reflections were correlated with preparatory language and overall change talk, suggesting this might be a particularly important MI skill. Findings have implications for better understanding the process of MI and mechanisms through which MI can improve treatment engagement.


© Nadia Islam

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