Maternal psychological factors and controlled child feeding practices in relation to child body mass index

Alan W. Gemmill, Tamara Worotniuk, Christopher J. Holt, Helen Skouteris, Jeannette Milgrom

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Background: The rise of childhood obesity in Western society has focused attention on parental feeding practices. Despite evidence that controlled feeding influences child weight, there is a paucity of research examining predictors of controlled feeding. The aim of this study was to determine whether maternal antenatal and/or concurrent anxiety and depressive symptoms, including stress, predicted controlled feeding and whether maternal controlled feeding practices, in turn, predict child BMI. Methods: In total, 203 mothers participated in a longitudinal follow-up survey. Mothers' self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured both in pregnancy and at 2-7 years postpartum. Maternal-reported child BMI and maternal use of restriction, pressure to eat, and monitoring were measured at 2-7 years postpartum. Results: Feeding practices were not uniformly predictive of child BMI. Maternal use of restriction and monitoring were partially positively predicted by concurrent maternal stress and negatively partially predicted by concurrent depression. Thus, mothers enduring high stress appeared to employ more controlled feeding patterns, whereas mothers experiencing depression seemingly employed lower levels of controlled feeding. Conclusions: Findings that maternal anxiety and depression affect levels of controlled feeding are of particular interest and broadly supportive of the few existing studies. Given the mixed results linking controlled feeding to child BMI reported in previous research, further work is required to determine the relationships between maternal mood, child feeding practices, and BMI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-337
Number of pages12
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

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