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Published in: Pediatric Dentistry, vol. 37, 2015.


Purpose: Motivational interviewing (MI) is a patient-centered approach focusing on building intrinsic motivation for change. This paper presents a meta-analysis of parent-involved MI to improve pediatric health behavior and health outcomes.

Methods: Study inclusion criteria: (1) examined modifiable pediatric health behaviors (< 18 years old); (2) used MI or motivational enhancement; (3) conducted a randomized controlled trial with a comparison group (non-MI control or active treatment group); (4) conducted the intervention with only a parent or both a parent and child; and (5) were written in English. Twenty-five studies (with 5,130 participants) were included and independently rated. Weighted mean effect sizes, using random-effects assumptions, were calculated.

Results: Relative to comparison groups, MI was associated with significant improvements in health behaviors (e.g., oral health, diet, physical activity, reduced screen time, smoking cessation, reduced second hand smoke) and reduction in body mass index. Results suggest that MI may also outperform comparison groups in terms of dental caries, but more studies are needed. MI interventions were more successful at improving diets for Caucasians and when the intervention included more MI components.

Conclusions: Our findings provide support for providing motivational interviewing to parents and children to improve pediatric health behaviors.