Submitted to: Review Article
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/20/2004
Publication Date: 9/1/2004
Citation: Hughes, S.O., Power, T.G., Fisher, J., Mueller, S., Nicklas, T. 2005. Revisiting a neglected construct: parenting styles in a child-feeding context. Appetite. 44:83-92. Interpretive Summary: Decades of research examining parenting and child outcomes has shown that authoritative parenting (defined as warmth in conjunction with boundaries) is associated with better grades in school, better social skills, and better mental health among children. Little research has examined the relationship between general parenting skills and eating healthy foods, especially in low-income children. Previous research has focused on specific feeding skills such as restricting foods from children’s diets and monitoring what they eat. Most of this research has been conducted with middle-class, European-American families. The purpose of the current study was to develop a parent-report questionnaire to identify parenting patterns that are used by African-American and Hispanic parents during mealtime to get their young children to eat. Two hundred thirty-one parents (130 Hispanic; 101 African-American) completed the newly developed questionnaire on feeding patterns. They also completed a questionnaire on general parenting. The newly developed questionnaire identified four feeding patterns similar to general parenting patterns (authoritarian, n = 84; authoritative, n = 34; indulgent, n = 80; and uninvolved, n = 33). Hispanic parents were more likely to be categorized as indulgent (warm and caring with the child during feeding but exhibiting few boundaries). African-American parents were more likely to be categorized as uninvolved showing little warmth and few boundaries in the feeding context. Indulgent parents in this study had children with the highest body mass index scores whereas authoritarian parents had children with the lowest body mass index scores.
Technical Abstract: The extent to which general parenting represents feeding styles in ethnically diverse populations is not well documented. Existing measures of child feeding have focused almost exclusively on specific behaviors of European-Americans parents. A valid and reliable instrument was developed to identify feeding styles in parents of low-income minority preschoolers. Two hundred thirty-one parents (130 Hispanic; 101 African-American) completed questionnaires on feeding practices and parenting styles. Based on self-reported feeding behavior, parents were assigned to four feeding styles (authoritarian, n = 84; authoritative, n = 34; indulgent, n = 80; and uninvolved, n = 33). Convergent validity was evaluated by relating feeding styles to independent measures of general parenting, authoritarian feeding practices. Authoritarian feeding styles were associated with higher levels of general parental control and authoritarian feeding practices. Alternatively, authoritative feeding styles were associated with higher levels of general parental responsiveness. Among the permissive feeding styles, Hispanic parents were more likely to be indulgent, whereas African-American parents were more likely to be uninvolved. Further, differences were found among feeding styles on an independent measure of child’s body mass index.