Context matters! The relationship between mother-reported family nutrition climate, general parenting, food parenting practices and children's BMI

Sanne M. P. L. Gerards*, Christina Niermann, Dorus W. M. Gevers, Nadine Eussen, Stef P. J. Kremers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Efforts to explain children's nutrition behavior or weight often involve investigating the parent-child relationship, typically studying the associations between food parenting practices (FPPs) and child outcomes. However, these behaviors are embedded in a broader system: general parenting (GP, the general emotional climate at home), and the family health climate (an aspect of the broader family system in the context of health). In the current study, we combined the parent-child measures of parenting (FPPs and GP) and the nutritional dimension of the family health climate (family nutrition climate, FNC) to get a broader view of how these concepts are interrelated. The current study had two aims: predicting FPPs using GP and FNC as predictor variables, and investigating the relationship between FPPs and children's weight in different groups of parents, based on low and high GP and FNC scores. Methods: We collected cross-sectional data via an online survey panel. Mothers of 267 children aged 5-12 years filled out a questionnaire assessing demographics (e.g., children's weight and height), GP, FPPs, and FNC. Bivariate correlation coefficients were calculated between all constructs. Structural equation modeling was performed to test the hypothesized relationships between GP, FNC and FPPs. Hereafter, different groups of parents were identified, using median split, based on a low or high score on GP or a low or high score on FNC. Bivariate correlation coefficients were calculated between FPPs and children's BMI z-score for these different groups. Results: GP and FNC were consistently positively correlated (all r's >=.177), and both concepts were positively associated with healthy FPPs (all r's >=.214). In families with a positive context (i.e. scoring high on GP and on FNC), healthy FPPs were associated with lower BMI z-scores of the children (r-.229). This association was not found for children with a more negative family context. Conclusions: FNC and GP are valuable additional concepts to investigate relationships between FPPs and child outcomes. We recommend that more studies, next to investigating the parent-child system, include a measure of the broader family system, in order to get a broader view of the mechanisms explaining child health behaviors and weight status.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1018
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2016

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