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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Correspondence between maternal determination of child fullness and young children's self-determined fullness level: Results from a standardized laboratory protocol

Author
item Frankel, Leslie - University Of Houston
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Power, Thomas - Washington State University
item Hughes, Sheryl - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Childhood Obesity
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/17/2014
Publication Date: 4/1/2015
Citation: Frankel, L.A., Thompson, D.J., Power, T.G., Hughes, S.O. 2015. Correspondence between maternal determination of child fullness and young children's self-determined fullness level: Results from a standardized laboratory protocol. Childhood Obesity. 11(2):209-214.

Interpretive Summary: Self-regulation of total caloric intake is an essential part of maintaining a healthy body weight. However, some children have poor self-regulation. Mother's perception of their child's ability to self-regulate may be a possible reason for this. To address this issue, research was conducted with 20 low income mothers and their children. A buffet meal was served, then mothers and children separately identified child's level of fullness. While some mothers correctly identified their child's fullness level, others did not. Of these, half were willing to accept their child's assessment, while others were not. This research provides suggestive evidence that some mothers believe they understand their child's fullness level better than their children. Given that mothers have the potential to override children's ability to self-regulate their eating behavior, teaching mothers to understand and appreciate young children's ability to self-regulate eating is an important issue that should be addressed. Research is needed to identify the best way to do this.

Technical Abstract: This study examined maternal understanding and acceptance of young children's ability to self-assess fullness using a mixed-methods approach. Twenty low-income mothers of 5- to 7-year-olds participated in this semistructured laboratory study. After consumption of a buffet dinner meal, mothers were asked to indicate their perception of their child's fullness level, and children were also asked to self-assess their fullness level. Five of the 20 mothers in the study were initially correct in their assessment of their child's level of fullness. Half of the incorrect mothers were willing to change their rating when informed that the child's fullness rating was different than her own. Semistructured interview results provide suggestive evidence that some mothers believe they understand their child's fullness level better than their children. Given that mothers have the potential to override children's ability to self-regulate eating behavior, teaching mothers to understand and appreciate young children's ability to self-regulate eating is an important area for intervention.