Restrictive feeding passes eating problems from mother to daughter at early age

May 10, 2000

University Park, Pa. - Problems and concerns about eating and weight can be passed from mother to daughter via restrictive feeding practices when the child is as young as five years of age, increasing the risk of childhood overweight, a new Penn State study has shown.

Dr. Leann Birch, professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, says "Familial overweight is commonly believed to be exclusively a genetic problem and, as a result, people tend to think that what happens in the family environment doesn't matter. While heavy mothers tend to have heavy daughters, our results indicate that these familial resemblances arise from both genetic factors and the use of child-feeding practices that foster problems in eating and increase daughters' relative weight."

The Penn State study, co-authored by Birch and Jennifer O. Fisher, research associate, is detailed in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in the paper, Mothers' Child-Feeding Practices Influence Daughters' Eating and Weight. It is the first study of its kind with pre-school children. The results are consistent with Birch's previous research which shows that stringent controls and restrictive child feeding practices do not produce the intended effect of helping children establish adequate self-control of food intake but rather, actually promote patterns of intake that are readily influenced by the presence and availability of palatable foods.

The 197 White mothers, who with their daughters participated in the study, completed questionnaires to measure their own restraint in eating and their perceptions of and concerns about their daughters' risk of overweight. Questionnaires were also used to measure the extent to which the mothers controlled their daughters' eating, restricted access to high calorie-high fat foods and limited snacking.

In general, mothers who reported that they were working hard to control their own weight, indicated that they tended to use more restrictive feeding practices to control their daughter's weight. Daughters who were receiving more restrictive parental management also tended to be heavier.

In another part of the study, the girls were assessed to see how they responded to the availability of high calorie-high fat snacks when their mothers were not monitoring them. After the girls had a self-selected lunch and indicated they were no longer hungry, they were asked to taste test 10 sweet and savory foods. Finally, they were shown a variety of toys available for a play session as well as a variety of snack foods, including popcorn, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, fruit chew candy, chocolate bars, ice cream and frozen yogurt. The girl was told she could play with the toys or eat any of the foods while the experimenter left the room. Girls whose mothers had indicated using a high degree of control and restriction had greater intakes of the snack foods. Girls who consumed more snack foods when not hungry also tended to be heavier. The researchers write, "Parents' use of restrictive feeding practices may actually promote patterns of intake that are readily influenced by the presence and availability of palatable foods."

So, what's a parent to do to promote children's self-regulation? In a recent interview, Birch offered these suggestions: 1) make a large variety of low energy density foods that have fewer calories per ounce, such as fruits and vegetables, available so that kids will learn to like them. 2) Get good information about portion size so that children do not learn to overeat and parents have reasonable expectations about how much children need to eat. Reliable information about portion size can be found on http://navigator.tufts.edu. 3) Allow snacks in moderation. Don't take a Draconian approach.
-end-
EDITORS: Jennifer Fisher is at (814) 865-2570 or jaf7@psu.edu by email.

Penn State

Related Overweight Articles from Brightsurf:

Overweight and obesity are associated with a low sperm quality
Researchers from the Rovira i Virgili University in collaboration with researchers from the University of Utah have carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the association between adiposity (normal weight, overweight, obesity, and low weight) and the sperm quality.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Overweight from cosmetics
Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics. If pregnant women use cosmetics containing parabens that remain on the skin for protracted periods, this may have consequences for their child's subsequent weight development.

Overweight before age 40 increases the cancer risk
The risk of cancer increases considerably if you gain weight before the age of 40.

Overweight Danes are more likely to have overweight dogs according to new research
A new study from the University of Copenhagen reports that the prevalence of overweight dogs is markedly larger among overweight owners than among normal weight owners.

Overweight kids actually eat less right after stressful events
People often react to stress by binging on sweets or fattening comfort foods, cravings fueled by the appetite-stimulating stress hormone cortisol.

Abundant screen time linked with overweight among children
A recently completed study indicates that Finnish children who spend a lot of time in front of screens have a heightened risk for overweight and abdominal obesity, regardless of the extent of their physical activity.

Overweight, obesity in children across Europe
This study (called a systematic review and meta-analysis) combined the results of 103 studies with nearly 478,000 children (ages 2 to 13) to look at how common overweight and obesity are among children across Europe.

Overweight men are inhibiting childbirth
About 15% of couples in fertile age have experienced fertility problems.

Being overweight as a teen may be associated with cardiomyopathy in adulthood
The risk of developing cardiomyopathy, which often leads to heart failure, increased in adult Swedish men who were even mildly overweight around age 18.

Read More: Overweight News and Overweight Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.