Maternal self-efficacy regarding children's eating and sedentary behaviours in the early years: associations with children's food intake and sedentary behaviours

Int J Pediatr Obes. 2010 Dec;5(6):501-8. doi: 10.3109/17477161003777425. Epub 2010 Apr 29.


Introduction: This cross-sectional study aimed to describe parents' views regarding self-efficacy to influence children's eating and sedentary behaviours at two time points in early childhood, and to examine associations between these views and children's eating and sedentary behaviours.

Methods: Mothers of 1-year (n=60) and 5-year-old children (n=80) were recruited through Maternal and Child Health Centres and kindergartens in Victoria, Australia. Mothers reported children's dietary intake, television viewing and perceptions of their self-efficacy regarding children's eating and sedentary behaviours.

Results: Overall, 5-year-old children consumed significantly more energy-dense food and drink and spent significantly more time viewing TV/DVD and video. Mothers of 1-year-olds were significantly more likely to report they felt confident to limit child's consumption of non-core foods/drinks, and to limit screen access (p<0.001). Measures of maternal self-efficacy were directly associated with 5-year-old children's water (p<0.05), and fruit and vegetable consumption (p<0.005), and with 1-year-old children's vegetable consumption (p<0.05), and were inversely associated with cordial and cake consumption (p<0.05). Maternal self-efficacy to limit viewing time was inversely associated with screen-time exposure in both age groups (p<0.01).

Conclusion: This study suggests that mother's self-efficacy regarding limiting non-core foods/drinks and limiting screen-time exposures may decline during the first few years of a child's life. Higher maternal self-efficacy was associated with children having more obesity protective eating and sedentary behaviours at both ages. Interventions to support the development of healthy lifestyle behaviours may be most effective if they target mothers' self-efficacy in these domains early in their child's life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Television
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria
  • Young Adult