Parental controlling feeding practices have been directly associated with maladaptive child eating behaviors, such as eating in the absence of hunger (EAH). The aims of this study were to examine EAH in very young children (3-4years old) and to investigate the association between maternal controlling feeding practices and energy intake from a standardized selection of snacks consumed 'in the absence of hunger'. Thirty-seven mother-child dyads enrolled in the NOURISH RCT participated in a modified EAH protocol conducted in the child's home. All children displayed EAH, despite 80% reporting to be full or very full following completion of lunch 15min earlier. The relationships between maternal and child covariates and controlling feeding practices and EAH were examined using non-parametric tests, and were stratified by child gender. For boys only, pressure to eat was positively associated with EAH. Neither restriction nor monitoring practices were associated with EAH in either boys or girls. Overall, the present findings suggest that gender differences in the relationship between maternal feeding practices and children's eating behaviors emerge early and should be considered in future research and intervention design.
Keywords: Child eating behavior; Controlling feeding practices; Eating in the absence of hunger; Self-regulation.
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