Maternal encouragement and discouragement: Differences by food type and child weight status

Appetite. 2016 Jun 1;101:15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.146. Epub 2016 Feb 26.


Childhood obesity prevention practice guidelines recommend that parents encourage the intake of certain types of foods and discourage the intake of others. It is unknown if parents of children of different weight statuses encourage or discourage their child's intake differently based on food type. The objective of this study was to determine the association of child weight status with maternal encouragement and discouragement of for four different types of food. A total of 222 mother-child dyads were video-taped during the standardized, sequential presentation of four foods to both participants: cupcakes (familiar dessert), green beans (familiar vegetable), halva (unfamiliar dessert) and artichoke (unfamiliar vegetable). Mother's encouragements and discouragements of child intake were reliably coded for each food type. Poisson regression models were used to test the independent association of child weight status (normal weight, overweight and obese) with encouragement and discouragement for each food type. Mothers of an obese, vs. normal or overweight child, had lower rates of encouragement for a familiar dessert (p = 0.02), and a higher rates of discouragements for a familiar dessert (p = 0.001), a familiar vegetable (p = 0.01), and an unfamiliar vegetable (p = 0.001). There were no differences in encouragements or discouragements between mothers of an overweight, vs. obese child, for any of the 4 food types. Mothers of obese children may alter their feeding behavior differentially based on food type. Future work should examine how interventions promoting maternal encouragement or discouragement of different food types impact child weight status.

Keywords: Child; Feeding behavior; Mothers; Mother–child relations; Pediatric obesity.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Intake
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Parenting
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables