Feeding styles among mothers of low-income children identified using a person-centered multi-method approach

Appetite. 2020 Mar 1;146:104509. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104509. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


Background: Maternal feeding styles have been associated with children's eating behaviors and obesity risk. Few works have identified maternal feeding styles using a multi-method person-centered approach.

Objectives: (1) To identify maternal feeding styles using a person-centered multi-method approach, and (2) to examine the association of child weight status with maternal feeding styles.

Methods: Participants were low-income mother-child dyads (N = 255) (mean child age 5.9 years) from the United States. Mothers completed questionnaires and participated in a semi-structured interview. Interview transcripts were reliably coded for constructs of child feeding including beliefs, goals, and concerns. Family mealtime video recordings were reliably coded for feeding behaviors. Child anthropometrics were measured. Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to determine empirically-driven typologies of maternal feeding styles. Chi-square analyses tested the association of maternal feeding styles with child overweight or obese (vs. not) weight status.

Results: Two maternal feeding styles were identified by LCA which we term "High Coercive Control" (27% child overweight/obese) and "Low Coercive Control" (55% child overweight/obese). High Coercive Control mothers were more likely to believe their child was too thin, self-reported being more demanding in feeding and pressuring the child to eat, worried more about their child not eating enough and were observed to use more bribery. Low Coercive Control mothers were concerned about their child eating too much, and were less likely to self-report engaging in pressuring or restricting feeding behaviors.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that although there is a "feeding style" characterized by substantial control, this style was most common among mothers of thinner children. The mothers of children with overweight/obesity were primarily characterized by engaging in the "recommended" feeding behaviors and being appropriately concerned about their child's risk for excess weight.

Keywords: Child; Feeding styles; Mother; Obesity; Overweight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Weight
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coercion
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Male
  • Meals / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States