A Bidirectional Analysis of Feeding Practices and Eating Behaviors in Parent/Child Dyads from Low-Income and Minority Households

      Objective

      To prospectively examine the bidirectional relationship between parental feeding practices (eg, instrumental feeding, encouragement to eat) and child eating behaviors (eg, food responsiveness, emotional eating) in low-income, ethnically diverse preschool children over a 3-year period.

      Study design

      Parent/child (age 2-4 years at baseline) pairs (n = 222 non-Hispanics; n = 312 Hispanics) participated in NET-Works (Now Everybody Together for Amazing and Healthful Kids), a randomized controlled trial carried out in community and in-home settings in urban areas of Minnesota. Data were collected at baseline and 12, 24, and 36 months. The present study is a secondary data analysis using cross-lagged models to identify bidirectional associations between parental feeding practices and child eating behaviors.

      Results

      Three models showed significant cross-lagged effects ( P < .05): model 1, parental instrumental feeding influencing later child food responsiveness; model 2, parental emotional feeding influencing later child food responsiveness; and model 3, parental emotional feeding influencing later child eating satiety. Model 1 showed significant bidirectional temporal paths, whereas models 2 and 3 showed significant unidirectional temporal paths from parental feeding practices to child eating behaviors.

      Conclusions

      Parental instrumental and emotional feeding practices prospectively influence child food responsiveness and satiety. This study demonstrates causal temporality between parental feeding practices and child eating behaviors. Heath care providers may want to use findings regarding parent feeding practices as part of their anticipatory guidance during well-child visits with parents of preschoolers.

      Keywords

      Abbreviations:

      BMI ( Body mass index), FST ( Family systems theory), NET-Works ( Now Everybody Together for Amazing and Healthful Kids)
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