Phenotypes of controlling feeding behaviours in mothers of toddlers: A mixed methods study

Pediatr Obes. 2020 May 7;e12639. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12639. Online ahead of print.


Background: Maternal feeding behaviours, in particular controlling behaviours, are associated with risk of childhood obesity.

Objectives: To qualitatively examine patterns of mothers' beliefs and behaviours around controlling feeding through a semi-structured interview and to examine associations of those patterns with participant demographic characteristics and classical child feeding instruments.

Methods: A convenience sample of mothers (N = 35) of toddlers (mean age 25 months) participated in a semi-structured interview about their child feeding beliefs and behaviours. Anthropometrics were measured. Transcripts were analyzed using narrative analysis for patterns from which two emerged, known as phenotypes. A coding scheme was created and reliably applied. Bivariate correlates of the phenotypes with participant child characteristics and mother self-reported feeding behaviours were examined.

Results: The phenotypes were High Covert Control (n = 12) and Shared Control (n = 23). High Covert Control phenotype membership was correlated with higher child and mother BMI (body mass index) and child female sex. Shared Control phenotype membership was correlated with lower child and mother BMI and greater pressure to eat.

Conclusions: Two controlling feeding phenotypes emerged among mothers of toddlers, which were associated with participant characteristics including BMI, but did not map onto classical child feeding instruments.

Keywords: control; eating; feeding; feeding behaviours; mother child relations; paediatric obesity; toddler.