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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Objective 1: Develop and evaluate a model of childhood obesogenic environments based on parent-child dynamics affecting child eating behaviors and body weight status. Sub-objective 1.A. Examine a set of functional relationships involving food parenting practices (i.e., strategies parents use and problems they encounter with getting children to eat healthy), child eating behaviors, and weight status. Sub-objective 1.B. Examine the nature of the perceived effectiveness of food parenting practices (theoretically associated with feeding styles) by examining some psychosocial precursors of food parenting practices such as child temperament, and parent affect. Sub-objective 1.C. Examine the nature of parent/child dyads involving eating behaviors and weight status and how these are influenced by feeding styles, child temperament, and parent affect. Sub-objective 1.D. Identify specific family characteristics (i.e., emotional climate at family meals) that influence child eating behaviors and body weight status.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Data analyses will first be completed on multiple aspects of an existing data set of parent-report data and height and weight data (independently gathered by research staff members on parents and children) at Head Start centers across two states. This data set includes information on African-American, Hispanic, and White low-income families. Secondly, data is currently being gathered on African-American and Hispanic low-income Head Start families in Houston, TX, and will be analyzed to gain additional information on the aspects of the family environment that impacts and influences children's eating behaviors and weight status. Ultimately, a model of parent-child dynamics will be developed (through these series of analyses) that can best explain the impact of the low-income environment on the weight status of preschool children (which includes the eating environment).

3. Progress Report
In FY2010, Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers conducted an analysis of an existing data set, resulting in submission of two manuscripts for peer review regarding strategies parents use to get children to eat healthy and problems parents encounter with getting children to eat healthy. A single manuscript was submitted to the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics entitled "Child Temperament and Strategies in Feeding Children Healthy Foods among Low-Income Families: The Mediating Role of Parent Affect". Furthermore, we presented a paper at the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in June 2010 regarding observed parent affect during family meals in low-income Head Start families which presents preliminary data collected by Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers. This presentation examined how the emotional climate of the dinner meal may influence the eating behaviors of children. The ADODR monitors activities for the project by routine site visits.

4. Accomplishments
1. The impact of parent and child characteristics on feeding healthy foods. Since childhood obesity is a significant public health problem, it is important to understand environmental influences on the development of overweight in children. Parents are considered one of the most important environmental influences on the eating behaviors of young children. To evaluate how parent affect and child temperament play a role in how healthy foods are offered to their children researchers at the Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, Texas, used an existing data set to develop measures of strategies parents use and problems encountered in getting their children to eat healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables. Our analyses indicated that a positive parent was associated with feeding strategies and decreased perception of feeding problems. Negative parental affect was associated with increased perception of feeding problems especially when children were negative themselves. Understanding the mechanisms of feeding is important in the facilitation of tailored interventions designed to prevent and reduce overweight in children.

2. Understanding the emotional climate of the dinner meal in Head Start families. Although psychologists have discussed the importance of the emotional climate in parent-child relationships, this has not been studied in a feeding context. To observe differences in the emotional climate created by parents (including affect and other parent behaviors such as tone of voice and gestures) during the dinner meal among low-income families, researchers at the Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, Texas, compared observed parental measures of positive effect, negative effect, intrusion, and detachment and the influence on feeding. Authoritarian parents (those who expect strict adherence to their directives) were found to be significantly more negative and intrusive with their children during the dinner meal compared to authoritative parents (those who are both responsive and exercise appropriate control) and indulgent parents (those who are highly responsive but do not set boundaries with their children). The uninvolved parents were significantly more detached with their children during the dinner meal compared to authoritative and authoritarian parents and children on average had a higher BMI score of all groups. Results suggest that the emotional climate of the dinner meal may play an important part in how parents socialize their children around eating during mealtime. Results also suggest that parents' self-reported feeding styles may be a proxy for the emotional climate of the dinner meal, which may in turn influence the child's eating behaviors and weight status.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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