This study focused on the relationship between low-income Latina mothers' perceptions of their preschool children's weight status and maternal feeding practices and styles, also considering the effects of actual child weight status and maternal concern about child weight. A total of 186 low-income Latina mother-child dyads participated. The vast majority of mothers underestimated the weight status of their child, but this varied by child weight status. Although only 30% of mothers of healthy weight children underestimated their child's weight status, 97% of mothers of overweight or obese children did so. No mother overestimated her child's weight status. Contrary to our hypotheses, in most cases, maternal perceptions of child's body weight were not related to maternal feeding styles, nor were many feeding practices predicted by concern about child weight. Instead, children's actual weight status was the strongest predictor of maternal feeding practices and feeding styles. Mothers of children with higher BMI z-scores reported higher levels of healthy eating guidance and responsiveness during feeding and lower levels of pressure to eat, food as reward, and using food to regulate the child's emotions. These mothers were more likely to show an indulgent and less likely to show an authoritarian feeding style. Concern about child weight did not account for any of these significant correlations. Maternal perceptions only mattered for restriction for weight purposes where there were independent effects of both perceived and actual weight status. Implications for understanding the development of child obesity in low-income, Latino populations are considered, along with recommendations for future research and for childhood obesity prevention programs.
Keywords: Childhood obesity; Latina mothers; Maternal feeding and concern about child weight; Maternal perceptions of child weight; Preschool children.
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