Recent research has demonstrated the importance of maternal feeding practices and children's eating behavior in the development of childhood obesity. The purpose of this study was to examine the relations between maternal and child eating patterns, and to examine the degree to which these relationships were mediated through maternal feeding practices. Two hundred and twenty-two low-income mothers and their preschool children participated. About half of the families were African American and half were Latino. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing maternal eating patterns, maternal feeding practices, and children's eating patterns. Maternal external eating (eating in response to outside stimuli, not internal hunger/thirst cues) was positively correlated with two child eating scores: picky eating and desire to eat. Mediational analyses showed that external eating in mothers was related to picky eating in children through high maternal control in feeding; the relationship between mothers' external eating and desire to eat in children was not mediated through maternal control. Picky eating and desire to eat in children were related to emotional eating in mothers as well. The implications of these results for understanding the development of childhood obesity are considered.
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