A comparison of maternal and paternal parenting practices and their influence on children’s physical activity, screen-time, diet and adiposity (#207)
Background: Children’s lifestyle behaviours and weight status are influenced by parenting practices, yet most studies report data from mothers only.
Aim: The aims of this study were to examine (i) if there was a difference between maternal and paternal physical activity- and dietary-related parenting practices, and (ii) a range of potential biological, behavioural and maternal/paternal correlates of objectively measured physical activity, screen-time, diet, and adiposity, in a sample of primary school-aged children.
Method: Cross-sectional analysis in a sample of 70 families with children (59% boys, mean age 8.4 (2.4) years, 42% overweight/obese). Parenting practices was measured using the Parenting Strategies for Eating and Activity Scale. Children’s behaviours and outcomes included: physical activity, screen-time, percent energy from core-foods and BMI z-score. Differences between mothers’ and fathers’ parenting practices were investigated using paired sample t-tests and multiple regression models were generated to examine the associations between maternal and paternal parenting practices and childrens’ variables.
Results: Mothers’ control was significantly lower (p<0.001) and limit setting (p<0.01) and monitoring (p<0.001) were significantly higher than fathers. When examining couples within a family, some consistency between partners was demonstrated from some parenting practices with moderate correlations for control and monitoring (r = 0.31, 0.54 respectively). In the regression analyses, fathers’ reinforcement (p<0.01) was significantly associated with child physical activity. For screen-time, mothers’ monitoring (p<0.001) and child characteristics [age (p=0.01), sex (p=0.01), BMI z-score (p=0.03)] were significant predictors. Mothers’ parenting practices [limit setting (p=0.01), reinforcement (p=0.02)] and child screen-time (p=0.02) were significantly associated with core-foods. Fathers’ BMI (p<0.01) and mothers’ control (p<0.001) were significantly associated with child weight status.
Conclusion: Despite some similarities within couples, fathers and mothers differ in their use of specific physical activity- and diet-related parenting practices. Mothers and fathers have different biological, behavioural and parental influences on their childrens lifestyle behaviours and weight status.