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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Indulgent Feeding Style and Children's Weight Status in Preschool

item Hughes, Sheryl
item Shewchuk, Richard
item Baskin, Monica
item Nicklas, Theresa
item Qu, Haiyan

Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2008
Publication Date: 10/1/2008
Citation: Hughes, S.O., Shewchuk, R.M., Baskin, M.L., Nicklas, T.A., Qu, H. 2008. Indulgent feeding style and children's weight status in preschool. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 29(5):403-410.

Interpretive Summary: Parents influence their children's eating in many ways. Parents' attitudes about child rearing are important factors in how parents interact with their children around food. This study was designed to examine styles of feeding in low-income African-American, Hispanic, and European-American families and determine how feeding styles of parents influence the weight of their children. Of the 718 parents in this study whose children attended Head Start, four types of feeding were found, including authoritarian (overly strict with the child during feeding), authoritative (responsive to the child during feeding in conjunction with setting boundaries), indulgent (warm and caring with the child during feeding but exhibiting few boundaries), and uninvolved (little involvement with the child during feeding). Indulgent parents had children with higher weight status in this study. Other factors also impact the parent-child relationship such as emotions displayed by parents and temperament characteristics of children such as spontaneity, cautiousness, and internal control. Differences were found across the feeding styles on emotions reported by parents and child temperament characteristics.

Technical Abstract: The primary aim of this study was to examine whether parent affect and child temperament characteristics differ across feeding styles in low-income families, given suggestive evidence. The secondary aim was to examine whether feeding styles were still related to children's body mass index independent of parent affect, child temperament, and known correlates. Participants in this study were 718 parents of childrens attending Head Start programs across two sites (Texas and Alabama). Parents were categorized into feeding styles of authoritative (n = 118), authoritarian (n = 219), indulgent (n = 240), and uninvolved (n = 141) using a parent-report questionnaire characterizing feeding in a general parenting paradigm. Parents completed questionnaires, and measured height and weight was obtained from parents and children. Differences were found across feeding styles on parent affect and child temperament characteristics. Indulgent parents reported lower Negative Affect for themselves and lower Negative Affectivity for their children. The indulgent feeding style was significantly associated with higher child body mass index after controlling for parent affect, child temperament, and correlates (ethnicity, child age, parent body mass index). The results of this study not only show a robust association between the indulgent feeding style and weight status of low-income preschool childrens, but also suggest how congruence between parent emotional affect and child temperament characteristics may contribute to excess consumption among children of indulgent parents.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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