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Increased Monitoring By Parents May Result In Lower BMI In Children

Excess weight in childhood is associated with many adverse health consequences. The rapid rise in childhood overweight in a stable genetic population emphasizes the importance of environmental factors on this issue//.

Family influences, particularly parental influences, make up one environmental component that has been evaluated in relation to children’s weight. Parents influence the eating behaviors of children in a variety of ways, especially through their child-feeding practices. Parents are major role models for their children, and they need to be reminded and empowered with key facts.

Recently, a study was conducted to evaluate parenting and child-feeding practices in relation to preadolescent boys’ body mass index (BMI) and to compare differences between mothers’ and fathers’ child-feeding practices.

Lynn S. Brann, and Jean D. Skinner, authors of this study, published in the September issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association, hypothesized that parents of boys with a high BMI would use more controlling child-feeding practices with their sons. With this in mind, they set out to determine if differences existed in mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of their sons’ weight, controlling child-feeding practices (ie, restriction, monitoring, and pressure to eat), and parenting styles (ie, authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive) by their sons’ body mass index (BMI).

Dr. Brann, co-author of the study, interviewed mothers and boys using validated questionnaires and measured boys’ weight and height; fathers completed questionnaires independently. Subjects were white, preadolescent boys and their parents. Boys were grouped by their BMI into an average BMI group and a high BMI group.

Results of the study indicated that mothers and fathers of boys with a high BMI saw their sons as more overweight, were more concerned about their sons’ weight, and used pressure to eat with their sons less often than mothers and fa thers of boys with an average BMI. In addition, fathers of boys with a high BMI monitored their sons’ eating less often than fathers of boys with an average BMI. No differences were found in parenting by boys’ BMI groups for either mothers or fathers.

In addition, more controlling child-feeding practices were found among mothers (pressure to eat) and fathers (pressure to eat and monitoring) of boys with an average BMI compared with parents of boys with a high BMI. A better understanding of the relationships between feeding practices and boys’ weight is necessary. However, longitudinal research is needed to provide evidence of causal association.

The authors assert that understanding the relationships between parental child-feeding practices and boys’ weight status will help professionals educate parents about effective feeding practices to use with heir sons.

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