Parenting factors and childhood obesity (#64)
Introduction: Establishing healthy eating habits early in life, is seen as one important strategy to combat childhood obesity. Given that mothers tend to be the primary caregivers of young children, understanding their influence on the child food supply and socialisation towards food, as their children develop adult-like food intake patterns and eating behaviours, is of importance.
Method: Over the last 5 years, I have developed a program of research focused on how parenting and mother-child interactions impact on preschool children’s eating habits and subsequent patterns of weight gain. This research is the first to adopt a dyadic perspective, taking into account the relationship between mother and child and how this may moderate or mediate the effect of parenting practices on preschool child weight gain; to my knowledge, this is the first prospective study to obtain rich observational data around home routines pertaining to preschoolers’ eating.
Results: In this presentation, I will summarise the findings of my longitudinal survey data, outline the detailed process of developing a coding process to evaluate mother-child interactions during home observations, and present findings of the relationships between maternal child feeding practices and the parenting, personal characteristics and psychopathology of mothers with preschoolers.
Conclusions: The role of maternal influences in the development of childhood obesity is complex. Information about the ways in which the parent and child can influence each other, as observed in parent-child interactions around food, is likely to provide greater insights into the aetiology of childhood obesity.