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Title: Parent behavior and child weight status among a diverse group of underserved rural families

item HENNESSY, ERIN - Friedman School At Tufts
item HUGHES, SHERYL - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item GOLDBERG, JEANNE - Friedman School At Tufts
item HYATT, RAYMOND - Friedman School At Tufts
item ECONOMOS, CHRISTINA - Friedman School At Tufts

Submitted to: Appetite
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/15/2009
Publication Date: 1/15/2010
Citation: Hennessy, E., Hughes, S.0., Goldberg, J., Hyatt, R., Economos, C. 2010. Parent behavior and child weight status among a diverse group of underserved rural families. Appetite. 54(2): 369-377.

Interpretive Summary: Parents from middle-income families who expect strict obedience from their children in their everyday lives have been shown to have children who are overweight. However, associating general parenting directives to child overweight is problematic. A more in-depth look at actual eating behaviors is a better approach. This study examined how parents direct their children during eating and found that families living in under-resourced rural areas, who were permissive (more accommodating) in their feeding directives had children who were overweight. This study also showed that some feeding directives used by parents (restricting the intake of snack food) resulted in different child weight outcomes based on whether the parents were considered involved versus uninvolved. If parents were considered involved in their children’s eating behaviors, more restriction of snack foods were related to lower child BMI. Future studies are needed to better understand the parent-child feeding relationship, so that effective prevention and treatment programs may be developed.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this study was threefold: to investigate the association between three parenting behaviors (parenting style, feeding style, and feeding practices); to evaluate whether these behaviors were associated with child weight; and to determine whether style (parenting and feeding) moderated the relationship between feeding practice and child weight. Ninety-nine parent-child dyads were recruited for a cross-sectional study where parents self-reported their parenting style, feeding style, and feeding practices along with demographic characteristics. Height and weight were measured for each dyad. The relationship between parenting style and feeding style showed modest agreement. Feeding style, but not parenting style, was associated with child BMI z-score, while controlling for known covariates. An indulgent feeding style was associated with a higher child weight status. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that feeding style moderated the association between restrictive feeding practices and child BMI z-score. No moderating relationship was found between feeding style and the practices of pressure to eat or monitoring and child weight. This research suggests that an indulgent feeding style may be predictive of higher child weight and that future studies should examine the possible moderating role of feeding style in the parent feeding practice-child weight relationship.