Parental use of child feeding practices and outcomes in child and adolescent nutrition



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Texas A&M University


The incidence of childhood and adolescent overweight in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate and is now considered the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in this country. Although much attention has focused on genetic research, and heredity is an unarguable component of obesity, the role of the environment must be considered because genetic changes over entire populations are not likely to occur at such a rapid rate. In observing today?s environment where energy-dense foods abound, restaurant dining has increased, and children are more sedentary than ever, the current trends in child/adolescent weight status are not surprising. This study digs to the heart of worrisome eating habits by exploring the development of these behaviors in the family. Previous studies show that parents? use of child feeding practices is related to their children?s weight status. It is hypothesized that children of parents who utilize highly controlling feeding strategies (pressure, restriction, monitoring) will have nutrient intakes and weight indicators that are either higher or lower than the average for children whose parents exert less control over the eating domain. The objective of this research is to discover if significant relationships exist between parental child feeding strategies and child/adolescent overweight or underweight and nutrient intake. Birch?s model explaining familial resemblances in eating and weight status was tested using her previously validated Child Feeding Questionnaire, standard anthropometric techniques, three days of diet records, and a previously validated child questionnaire. Three-hundred and twelve children/adolescents, 254 mothers, and 245 fathers from the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area completed interviews, and data was analyzed with the Statistical Analysis System (SAS). Results confirmed the validity of Birch?s model and previous studies that found significant relationships between child feeding strategies and children?s nutrition status. Parents who pressured their children to eat (motivated by concern about the child being underweight) were more likely to have children with lower BMI percentiles and skinfolds while parents who monitored or restricted the child?s intake had children with higher BMI percentiles and skinfold thicknesses. No clear relationships were found between feeding styles and nutrient intake.