PARENT-REPORTED FEEDING PRACTICES, CHILD CHARACTERISTICS, AND THEIR ASSOCIATIONS WITH MOTHER-CHILD MEALTIME INTERACTIONS
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Previous research has examined factors that influence childhood obesity, including genetic and environmental influences. Information regarding childhood obesity is usually obtained from parent report; however observations of mealtime behaviors can provide researchers with additional data from both parents and children, This study aimed to identify whether maternal-reported parental feeding practices, child appetitive traits, and observed child behavior were associated with observed maternal encouragement and discouragement at mealtime. The sample consisted of 99 mother-child dyads from the Chicagoland area. Parent feeding practices were measured using the Child Feeding Questionnaire. Child appetitive traits were measured by using the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, specifically food avoidant (Satiety Responsiveness/Slowness of Eating, Fussiness) and food approach (Food Responsiveness, Enjoyment of Food) traits. Family mealtime interactions were videotaped and coded using an adapted coding system (BATMAN) to assess for various maternal and child behaviors. Negative binomial regressions were conducted and revealed that mothers were more likely to physically or verbally encourage their child at mealtime if they perceived their child as a fussy eater. No additional child appetitive traits were associated with maternal encouragement or discouragement. Additionally, no parent feeding strategy influenced maternal encouragement or discouragement, suggesting that self-report may not agree with observed behavior. Finally, mothers were more likely to physically or verbally discourage their child each time he or she requested food, and were more likely to physically or verbally encourage their children each time he or she declined food. These results suggest that parental feeding practices may play less of a role during mealtime than once thought in a mostly normal-weight sample. This study contributes to the literature by using both observational and self-report data to examine which environmental factors play a role in parental behavior at mealtime. Future research should attempt to replicate in a sample of overweight/obese children to determine if other predictors of maternal behavior would surface.