Familial psychosocial risk classes and preschooler body mass index: The moderating effect of caregiver feeding style

Appetite. 2018 Apr 1;123:216-224. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.12.025. Epub 2017 Dec 26.


Background: Early child weight gain predicts adolescent and adult obesity, underscoring the need to determine early risk factors affecting weight status and how risk factors might be mitigated. Socioeconomic status, food insecurity, caregiver depressive symptomology, single parenthood, and dysfunctional parenting each have been linked to early childhood weight status. However, the associations between these risk factors and children's weight status may be moderated by caregiver feeding styles (CFS). Examining modifiable factors buffering risk could provide key information to guide early obesity intervention efforts.

Methods: This analysis used baseline data from the Growing Healthy project that recruited caregivers/child dyads (N = 626) from Michigan Head Start programs. Caregivers were primarily non-Hispanic white (62%) and African American (30%). After using latent class analysis to identify classes of familial psychosocial risk, CFS was tested as a moderator of the association between familial psychosocial risk class and child body mass index (BMI) z-score.

Results: Latent class analysis identified three familial psychosocial risk classes: (1) poor, food insecure and depressed families; (2) poor, single parent families; and (3) low risk families. Interactive effects for uninvolved feeding styles and risk group indicated that children in poor, food insecure, and depressed families had higher BMI z-scores compared to children in the low risk group. Authoritative feeding styles in low risk and poor, food insecure, and depressed families showed lower child BMI z-scores relative to poor, single parent families with authoritative feeding styles.

Conclusions: Uninvolved feeding styles intensified the risk and an authoritative feeding style muted the risk conferred by living in a poor, food-insecure, and depressed family. Interventions that promote responsive feeding practices could help decrease the associations of familial psychosocial risks with early child weight outcomes.

Keywords: Child health; Child obesity; Family psychosocial risk; Feeding styles; Responsiveness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Early Intervention, Educational
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Racial Groups
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult