Objectives: To determine whether maternal attitude towards the family regularly eating together and maternal report of how often the family eat together are associated with adolescent offspring overweight.
Research methods and procedures: A cross-sectional mother-child-linked analysis was carried out using 14-year follow-up data from a population-based prospective birth cohort of 3795 children (52% males) who were participants in the Mater-University study of pregnancy, Brisbane, Australia. Maternal reports on family eating pattern reported at age 14 were used.
Results: The prevalence of overweight at age 14 was 24.1% (95% confidence interval (CI), 22.3, 26.1) for males and 27.1% (CI, 25.1, 29.2) for females. The majority of mothers (78%) reported that the family ate together at least once a day, but only 43% reported that they felt that family eating together was important. The offspring of women who felt that the family eating together was not important had increased odds of being overweight at age 14 (odds ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.05, 1.53) in age- and sex-adjusted models. Adjustment for potential confounding factors had no substantive effect on the association. There was no association between maternal reports of how often the family actually did eat together and overweight at age 14 in the offspring.
Discussion: These findings suggest that maternal attitude towards family eating patterns, but not maternal report of how often the family do eat together, are associated with childhood overweight status. Maternal attitude towards family eating (as opposed to a report of actual frequency at one time-point) may reflect broader maternal influences (beyond family eating pattern) on their child's diet and eating patterns over a long time course.