Observed behavioral indicators of child satiation at mealtime: Associations with child characteristics and parent-reported child eating behaviors

Appetite. 2021 Nov 1;166:105480. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105480. Epub 2021 Jun 22.


The notion of promoting parents' recognition of child satiation to reduce overfeeding and overeating in children is prevalent. To do so, it is important to identify common behaviors that may indicate satiation and can be easily recognized by parents. Relatively little work has focused on identifying behaviors that may indicate child satiation as they occur during naturalistic mealtimes, which is an important context for parents to observe their children's eating behavior. Hence, the goal of the current study is to examine whether observed behavioral indicators of child satiation at mealtimes are associated with child characteristics (i.e., sex, age, and BMIz) and parent-reported child appetitive traits. We coded observed behaviors thought to indicate satiation, specifically mealtime disengagement and mealtime negativity, in a cohort of 240 families with children between 4- and 8-years old (53% boys). First, we documented the occurrence of child disengagement and negativity during naturalistic mealtimes. Second, we found that lower child BMIz and being a boy were associated with greater mealtime disengagement, but child age was not associated with mealtime disengagement. No associations were found between child characteristics and mealtime negativity. Third, we found that mealtime disengagement and mealtime negativity were associated with mother-reported satiety responsiveness on the Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire. Taken together, our findings suggest observed mealtime disengagement and mealtime negativity behaviors could be helpful indicators of child satiation in a naturalistic mealtime context.

Keywords: Child; Mealtime; Parent; Satiation; Weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Mothers
  • Parents
  • Satiation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires