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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Learning to Overeat: Maternal Use of Restrictive Feeding Practices Promotes Girls' Eating in the Absence of Hunger.

Authors
item Birch, Leann - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
item Fisher, Jennifer
item Davison, Kirsten - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 16, 2002
Publication Date: August 1, 2003
Citation: Birch, L.L., Fisher, J., Davison, K.K. 2003. Learning to overeat: maternal use of restrictive feeding practices promotes girls' eating in the absence of hunger. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 78(2):215-220.

Interpretive Summary: Restrictive child-feeding practices have been associated with overeating in children. However, long-term studies are needed to understand how restriction affects the development of the controls of food intake in young children. The purpose of the study was to determine whether restrictive feeding practices fosters girls' eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) from the ages of 5-9 y and whether overweight girls are affected differently than non-overweight girls. The study design grouped girls according to their weight at age 5 and the amount of restriction in feeding reported by their mothers at that age. EAH was followed from ages 5-9 y. Mean EAH increased significantly from 5-9 y of age. Higher levels of restriction at 5 y of age predicted higher EAH at 7 y of age and at 9 y of age. Girls who were already overweight at 5 y of age and who received higher levels of restriction had the highest EAH scores at 9 y of age and the greatest increases in EAH from 5-9 y of age (P < 0.01). The findings of this study indicate that maternal restriction can exacerbate overeating, particularly for girls who are overweight and may be genetically predisposed to be especially responsive to environmental cues. These findings are not expected to be generalized to boys or to other racial and ethnic groups.

Technical Abstract: Experimental findings causally link restrictive child-feeding practices to overeating in children. However, longitudinal data are needed to determine the extent to which restrictive feeding practices promote overeating. Our objectives were to determine whether restrictive feeding practices foster girls' eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) and whether girls' weight status moderates the effects of restrictive feeding practices. Longitudinal data were used to create a study design featuring 2 maternal restriction factors (low and high), 2 weight-status factors (nonoverweight and overweight), and 3 time factors (ages 5, 7, and 9 y). Mean EAH increased significantly (P < 0.0001) from 5-9 y of age. Higher levels of restriction at 5 y of age predicted higher EAH at 7 y of age (P < 0.001) and at 9 y of age (P < 0.01). Girls who were already overweight at 5 y of age and who received higher levels of restriction had the highest EAH scores at 9 y of age (P < 0.05) and the greatest increases in EAH from 5-9 y of age (P < 0.01). The developmental increase in EAH from 5-9 y of age may be especially problematic in obesigenic environments. These longitudinal data provide evidence that maternal restriction can promote overeating. Girls who are already overweight at 5 y of age may be genetically predisposed to be especially responsive to environmental cues. These findings are not expected to be generalized to boys or to other racial and ethnic groups.

Last Modified: 11/23/2014
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