Background: Parental feeding practices (PFPs) are a key component of a child's food environment. Parent–child feeding relationships are hypothesised to be bidirectional; however, to date, few large prospective studies have examined this, instead focussing on unidirectional relationships. As such, the direction of relationships between PFPs and children's eating behaviours remains unclear. Methods: Data were from Gemini, a population‐based sample of children born in England and Wales in 2007. Children's eating behaviours and PFPs were measured at 15/16 months and 5 years using validated psychometric measures (n = 1,858 children). Bivariate Latent Change Score Modelling was used to examine the nature of relationships between PFPs and children's eating behaviours at 15/16 months and 5 years. Models were adjusted to account for clustering of twins within families and for sex of the child, socioeconomic status, gestational age and age of the child at measurement time points. Results: A reciprocal relationship was observed between instrumental feeding and emotional overeating, with greater instrumental feeding predicting greater increases in emotional overeating (β = .09; 0.03–0.15; p = .004) and vice versa (β = .09; 0.03–0.15; p = .005). Reciprocity was also observed between encouragement to eat nutritious foods and children's enjoyment of food, with greater encouragement predicting greater increases in enjoyment of food (β = .08; 0.02–0.13; p = .006) and vice versa (β = .07; 0.02–0.11; p = .003). Parent–child associations and child–parent associations were also observed. Conclusion: These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that certain feeding practices are used as a ‘natural’ response to a child expressing a greater interest in and enthusiasm for food, but at the same time, such practices impact the development of eating behaviours by nurturing and encouraging the expression of higher emotional overeating and greater enjoyment of food in preschool years. The findings provide important insights into the PFPs and eating behaviour traits that could be targeted as part of a tailored feeding intervention to support parents of children during the preschool formative years.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © 2023 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
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- Original Article
- Original Articles
- parental feeding practices
- eating behaviour