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Research Project: Preventing the Development of Childhood Obesity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: The association between maternal depressive symptomology and child dinner dietary quality among Hispanic Head Start families

item ARLINGHAUS, KATHERINE - University Of Michigan
item POWER, THOMAS - Washington State University
item HERNANDEZ, DAPHNE - University Of Texas Health Science Center
item JOHNSTON, CRAIG - University Of Houston
item HUGHES, SHERYL - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Preventive Medicine Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/25/2020
Publication Date: 9/2/2020
Citation: Arlinghaus, K.R., Power, T.G., Hernandez, D.C., Johnston, C.A., Hughes, S.O. 2020. The association between maternal depressive symptomology and child dinner dietary quality among Hispanic Head Start families. Preventive Medicine Reports.

Interpretive Summary: Eating meals of high dietary quality at a young age is an important strategy for the promotion of a healthy diet throughout the lifespan to prevent chronic disease. However, among Hispanic families from low-incomes, poor dietary quality and maternal depression are highly prevalent. Studies have shown that mothers' depressive symptoms influence dietary quality consumed by the child via the dietary quality of the meal that is served to the child. A mother with greater depressive symptoms may have a reduced capacity for healthy meal planning and preparation, which would influence the dietary quality of the meals she serves to her child. However, additional studies are needed to better understand differences between dietary quality served to and consumed by the child and their specific relationship to maternal depressive symptoms. This study aimed to address this by conducting a secondary data analysis on a total of 82 mother-child dyads. Children were of preschool age, attended Head Start in Houston, TX, and were of Hispanic origin. Results showed that 28% of the study mothers reported depressive symptoms. Overall, it was found that greater depressive symptoms reported by mothers predicted lower dietary quality of the dinner meal consumed by children, but mothers' depressive symptoms were not related to dietary quality of the dinner meal served to their child. These findings illustrate that among low-income, Hispanic families the relationship between maternal depressive symptomology and the dietary quality of the food consumed by children at dinner is likely explained through practices displayed by the mother during the meal, not behaviors displayed by the mother prior to the meal. Though further examination of these relationships is needed by future studies with larger samples, it is possible that child dietary quality may increase by prioritizing the improvement of mother's behaviors during meals over the improvement of meal preparation habits, especially among mothers who report depressive symptoms.

Technical Abstract: Dietary quality is important for children's growth and development. Poor dietary quality and maternal depression are prevalent among low-income, Hispanic families. Maternal depression likely influences child feeding before and during the meal. This secondary data analysis of an observational feeding study (2007-2008) examined how maternal depressive symptomology relates to dietary quality of dinner served to and consumed by Head Start preschoolers in Houston, TX (n=82 mother-child dyads). A digital photography method assessed food served and consumed by the child at three separate dinner meals in families' homes. Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI) was calculated and averaged across the three meals to measure dietary quality (possible range 0-100). Maternal depression was assessed by the Centers for Epidemiologic Depression Scale (CES-D, possible range 0-60). A series of linear regression models were developed, regressing the total CES-D score and all four CES-D subscales onto both the dietary quality of the meal served and consumed. Dinners served had a HEI of 45.70 plus or minus 9.19 and dinners consumed had a HEI of 44.65 plus or minus 7.34. Clinically significant depressive symptomology (CES-D greater than 16) was reported by 28% of mothers. Maternal depressive symptomology and the dietary quality served were not related. Controlling for dietary quality served, total CES-D and somatic complaints subscale scores were associated with lower dietary quality consumed (respectively, beta=-0.16, p less than 0.05 and beta=-0.23, p less than 0.01). Among low-income, Hispanic families, maternal depressive symptomology was predictive of the dietary quality consumed, but not served. Together, these findings reinforce the importance of parent feeding behaviors and emotional climates during dinner.