Mothers’ eating style’s influence on their feeding practices and on their children’s appetite traits

Victor Viana, Paulo Almeida, Micaela Guardiano, Diana Silva, Bruno Oliveira, António Guerra


Background: Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents has become an important public health concern in the last decades. To study the way mothers and children’s behavioral factors interact with each other, influencing eating and body weight, may provide information to be used in preventive and treatment strategies.

Goals: To study the association of mothers’ eating style on their feeding behavior and on their children’s eating behavior.

Methods: Cross-sectional observational study with a non-probabilistic sample of mother and child dyads (from three schools). Mothers’ eating behavior (assessed with Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire scale; DEBQ) was classified and they were grouped into three eating styles: restrictive, emotional-external or neutral styles. Mothers’ feeding restriction, pressure to eat and concern about child’s weight were assessed (through the Child Feeding Questionnaire; CFQ). Finally, mothers classified their child’s appetite behaviors (with the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire; CEBQ).

Results: Overall, participated 279 mothers, aged between 23 and 59 years (Mean= 38.03 years, SD=5.09) and respective children (n=279), aged between 6 and 13 years (Mean= 9.43 years, SD= 1.35), 140 of those were females (50.2 %). Associations between mothers’ eating style, their feeding behaviors and children’s appetite traits showed that restrictive and emotional-external eating mothers had higher scores of CFQ and CEBQ items related with obesity, when compared to neutral eating style mothers. Mothers’ feeding restriction and children’s weight concern associated positively with children’s food approach behaviors (enjoyment of food, food responsiveness, emotional over-eating), and negatively with food avoidance behaviors (satiety responsiveness and slowness in eating). On the contrary, pressure to eat associated positively with food avoidance behaviors and negatively with food approach behaviors. Mother´s concern about child weight and feeding restriction were positively associated with CEBQ subscales that reflect food approach and negatively associated with subscales that reflect food avoidance. Pressure to eat had the symmetric associations. 

Discussion: Results support the hypothesis of the transmission of eating behaviors that promote obesity from mothers to children, and have implications both for prevention and children and adolescents’ obesity treatment. Therefore, mothers should be a part of the intervention when treating their children obesity


Children’s appetite, Children’s obesity, Eating behavior, Feeding, Mothers’ eating style

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