Toddlers' eating behaviors are influenced by the way parents interact with their children. The objective of this study was to explore how five major constructs of general parenting behavior cluster in parents of toddlers. These parenting clusters were further explored to see how they differed in the use of feeding strategies (i.e. feeding styles and food parenting practices) and by reported child eating styles.
An online survey with 1005 mothers/caregivers (legal guardians) with at least one child between 12 and 36 months old was conducted in the United States in 2012, assessing general parenting behavior, feeding style, food parenting practices and the child eating styles.
A three cluster solution of parenting style was found and clusters were labelled as overprotective/supervising, authoritarian, and authoritative. The clusters differed in terms of general parenting behaviors. Both overprotective and authoritative clusters showed high scores on structure, behavioral control, and nurturance. The overprotective cluster scored high on overprotection. The 'authoritarian' cluster showed lowest levels of nurturance, structure and behavioral control. Overprotective and authoritative parents showed very similar patterns in the use of food parenting practices, e.g. monitoring food intake, modeling, and promoting healthy food intake and availability at home. Overprotective parents also reported higher use of pressure to eat and involvement. Authoritarian parents reported high use of giving the child control over their food behaviors, emotion regulation, using food as a reward, and controlling food intake for weight control. Children's eating styles did not largely vary by parenting cluster.
This study showed that a relatively new parenting style of overprotection is relevant for children's eating behaviors. Overprotective parents reported food parenting practices that are known to be beneficial for children's food intake, such as modelling healthy food intake, as well as more unfavorable practices such as pressure. Longitudinal data on parenting practices and their relation to healthy eating in children is needed to inform communication and interventions for parents, reinforcing key feeding strategies which have positive effects on child eating behaviors and addressing parenting styles that have unintended negative effects.
- BODY-MASS INDEX
- BEHAVIOR QUESTIONNAIRE
- WEIGHT STATUS
- CHILD WEIGHT
- RESTRICTING ACCESS