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Continuity in Primary School Children’s Eating Problems and the Influence of Parental Feeding Strategies

Abstract

Eating problems are highly prevalent and seem to show continuity in children. Nevertheless, the effect of different maternal and paternal feeding practices on changes in these problems is not fully understood yet. This study examines short-term continuity in primary school children’s overeating, loss of control (over eating), restraint and concerns (about eating, body shape and weight) and the predictive value of parental feeding strategies on change in these eating problems. Children (8–12 years, n = 613, 46.5 % girls) completed the Child Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (ChEDE-Q) twice with the second measurement (T2) taking place 6 months after the first (T1). Parents (n = 714, 57.7 % mothers) completed the Child Feeding Questionnaire (CFQ) at T1 to assess the level of controlling feeding strategies. More overeating, restraint and concerns at T1 predicted higher levels of the same eating problems 6 months later, whereas more of loss of control at T1 predicted lower levels of loss of control 6 months later. Additionally, the interaction between maternal pressure and the gender of the child was predictive for increases in overeating, whereas the interaction between paternal monitoring and gender of the child was a marginally significant predictor for decreases in overeating. These findings point to the possible negative and positive effects of parental feeding practices as well as to the possible larger influence of mothers on their daughters’ and of fathers on their sons’ eating behaviors. The importance of studying mothers and fathers, as well as daughters and sons, and of including different feeding strategies and eating problems is discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The first author is research assistant at the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). The second and fourth author were sponsored by the Special Research Funds of Ghent University (BOF).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Annelies Matton.

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Matton, A., Goossens, L., Braet, C. et al. Continuity in Primary School Children’s Eating Problems and the Influence of Parental Feeding Strategies. J Youth Adolescence 42, 52–66 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9794-3

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Keywords

  • Eating problems
  • Childhood
  • Continuity
  • Etiology
  • Parental feeding practices