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Research Project: Preventing the Development of Childhood Obesity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Are fathers' and mothers' food parenting practices differentially associated with children's eating behaviors?

Author
item DE-JONGH GONZÁLEZ, OLIVIA - University Of British Columbia
item TUGAULT-LAFLEUR, CLAIRE - University Of Guelph
item O'CONNOR, TERESIA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item HUGHES, SHERYL - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item MÂSSE, LOUISE - University Of British Columbia

Submitted to: Appetite
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/30/2021
Publication Date: 6/6/2021
Citation: De-Jongh Gonzalez, O., Tugault-Lafleur, C.N., O'Connor, T.M., Hughes, S.O., Masse, L.C. 2021. Are fathers' and mothers' food parenting practices differentially associated with children's eating behaviors?. Appetite. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105434.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105434

Interpretive Summary: There has been growing interest in understanding the role that fathers have in socializing their children in the feeding context. It is not clear if fathers' use of food parenting practices differs from that of mothers and if their parenting practices are differently associated with children's eating behaviors compared to mothers. This manuscript describes a cross-sectional study of 565 Canadian parents whose child was 5-12 years old. The parent sample include 53% fathers and 47% mothers. Parents completed questionnaires to describe 1) their use of food parenting practices across three main domains: structure (7 sub-constructs), control (2 sub-constructs) and autonomy promotion (2 sub-constructs); and 2) their child's eating behavior traits (emotional overeating, food responsiveness, satiety responsiveness and food fussiness) using an established survey. The analyses explored the associations of parental use of food parenting practices and the child's eating behaviors with models for mothers and fathers run separately. The analyses found that mothers and fathers reported very similar use of the 11 food parenting practice sub-constructs, with the exception that fathers reported slightly higher use of coercive control than mothers. Both mothers and fathers the following associations were significant and similar: parental use of restriction for weight practices were associated with greater emotional overeating and food responsiveness in their child; greater use of parenting practices around food to accommodate the child and lower use of practices to involve the child were associated with greater food fussiness; and using practices to accommodate the child, or using coercive controlling practices, was associated with greater children's emotional overeating. Important differences between fathers and mothers were also found. Most of the food parenting practices associated with children's food responsiveness and satiety responsiveness differed between fathers and mothers. Some differences were also found for children’s overeating and food fussiness. The results suggest that fathers may exert a unique influence on their children's food responsiveness and satiety responsiveness through exclusive food parenting practice pathways; even if they appear to be employing similar patterns of FPP as mothers. Both fathers and mothers should be routinely included in FPP research and interventions as they likely play a different role in socializing their children into adopting healthy dietary practices.

Technical Abstract: Little is known about how fathers' food parenting practices (FPPs) are linked with children's eating behaviors and whether these associations differ from mothers. This study examined associations between paternal and maternal FPPs and eating behaviors among children aged 5–12 years. A sample of 565 parents (53% fathers) completed: 1) the FPP item bank, which measured 11 FPP constructs from the three domains of parenting (control, autonomy promotion, and structure) and 2) the Children's Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ), to assess four constructs (emotional overeating, food responsiveness, satiety responsiveness and food fussiness). Multivariable linear regressions evaluated associations between FPP and CEBQ constructs, and models were run separately for fathers and mothers. Similarities emerged between fathers and mothers: 1) restriction for weight practices were associated with greater emotional overeating and food responsiveness; 2) greater parenting practices around food to accommodate the child and lower practices to involve the child were associated with greater food fussiness; and 3) using practices to accommodate the child, or using coercive controlling practices, was associated with greater children's emotional overeating. Differences emerged between fathers and mothers in terms of FPPs associated with children's food and satiety responsiveness, with a greater number of fathers' FPPs predictive of these behaviors. Our results suggest that fathers likely exert a unique influence on their children's eating behaviors and stress the need for interventions to account for the role each parent plays promoting healthy eating habits.