Do children with obesity have worse table manners? Associations between child table manners, weight status and weight gain

Appetite. 2018 Jun 1;125:57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.01.021. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Background: Children with obesity experience stigma stemming from stereotypes, one such stereotype is that people with obesity are "sloppy" or have poor manners. Teaching children "proper table manners" has been proposed as an obesity prevention strategy. Little is known about the association between children's weight status and table manners.

Objectives: To examine correlates of child table manners and to examine the association of child table manners with child obese weight status and prospective change in child body mass index z-score (BMIz).

Methods: Mother-child dyads (N = 228) participated in a videotaped laboratory eating task with cupcakes. Coding schemes to capture child table manners (making crumbs, chewing with mouth open, getting food on face, shoving food in mouth, slouching, and getting out of seat), and maternal attentiveness to child table manners, were reliably applied. Anthropometrics were measured at baseline and at follow-up two years later. Regression analyses examined the association of participant characteristics with child table manners, as well as the associations of child table manners with child obese weight status, and prospective change in BMIz/year.

Results: Predictors of poorer child table manners were younger child age, greater cupcake consumption, and greater maternal attentiveness to child table manners. Poorer child table manners were not associated with child obese (vs. not) weight status, but were associated with a prospective decrease in BMIz/year in children with overweight/obesity.

Conclusions: Obesity interventions to improve table manners may be perpetuating unfavorable stereotypes and stigma. Future work investigating these associations is warranted to inform childhood obesity guidelines around table manners.

Keywords: Childhood obesity; Mother-child relations; Table manners.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Gain