Family Food Talk and Obesity Risk in Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Preteens
Childhood obesity is a significant public health problem with 17% of US children being overweight or obese. Once established, obesity tracks into later childhood and adulthood. Identifying modifiable factors that may alter pathways to obesity in childhood is vital for development of effective interventions. Parents are vital in shaping child eating behavior, dietary intake, and ultimately obesity risk. Research implicates family mealtimes as important for child obesity prevention and development of healthy eating habits, but findings are not consistent. Eating outside of mealtimes, particularly snacking after school hours, has increased in recent years and is proposed as contributing to excessive child weight gain and a potentially important context for child socialization around food and eating. Yet, little is known about: 1) naturalistic parent-child interactions around food (i.e., ?food parenting?) outside of mealtimes; 2) how child factors (e.g., persistence in requesting snacks) may contribute; or 3) how food interactions outside of mealtimes vary across development. Understanding food talk outside of mealtimes holds promise for future child obesity prevention efforts. The proposed work would also fill a critical methodological gap, as extant studies rely on parents? self-reported feeding, observed structured laboratory interactions, or family mealtimes. No prior study has observed parent-child food talk between meals in relation to child obesity risk. Leveraging an ongoing cross-sectional study, we propose to analyze naturalistic parent-child interactions around food and eating during after school hours in relation to detailed, multi-method assessments of child eating behavior, dietary intake, parent feeding style, family mealtime interactions, and child adiposity. We will use discourse-analysis and behavioral-coding approaches to assess the process and content of naturally occurring parent and child talk about food and eating based on audiorecordings using the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) system. Our team has pioneered use of this system to study parenting and is uniquely expert in assessing food parenting and child eating behavior. Our aims are, in families with children ages 12-24 months (n=40), 3-5 years (n=40), and 10-13 years (n=60):
Aim 1. To assess frequency, discourse features, and emotional tone of naturalistic parent-child interactions around food or eating (?food talk?) outside of mealtime at child age 12-24 months, 3-5 years, and 10-12 years.
Aim 2. To assess whether food talk outside of mealtime is associated with parent-reported child eating behaviors and child dietary intake at ages 12-24 months, 3-5 years, and 10-12 years.
Aim 3. To assess whether food talk outside of mealtime is associated with parent-reported feeding styles and observed family mealtime interactions at ages 12-24 months, 3-5 years, and 10-12 years.
Aim 4. To assess whether food talk outside of mealtime is associated with child adiposity indicators (body mass index z-score [BMIz], skinfolds, weight status) at ages 12-24 months, 3-5 years, and 10-12 years, and with rate of change in BMIz across a six-month period.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(1 R03 HD 083656 01)
Funding Period: 4/1/2015 to 9/30/2017