Predictors of Paternal and Maternal Controlling Feeding Practices with 2- to 5-year-old Children

  • Emma Haycraft
    Address correspondence to: Emma Haycraft, PhD, Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK; Phone: +44(0)1509 228160; Fax: +44(0)1509 223940
    Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, United Kingdom
    Search for articles by this author
  • Jackie Blissett
    School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
    Search for articles by this author
Published:March 03, 2011DOI:



      This study aimed to identify predictors of controlling feeding practices in both mothers and fathers of young children.


      Cross-sectional, questionnaire design.


      Nursery schools within the United Kingdom recruited participants.


      Ninety-six mothers and fathers comprising 48 mother-father pairs of male and female children aged 2 to 5 years.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Parents' child feeding practices, eating psychopathology, general mental health symptomology, and their children's eating behaviors and temperament.


      Preliminary correlations; stepwise regressions.


      Maternal controlling feeding was predicted by children's eating behaviors (emotional over- and undereating), child temperament (sociability), and maternal general mental health symptoms. Paternal reports of children's eating behaviors (slow eating and emotional undereating) were the only significant predictors of fathers' controlling feeding practices.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Mothers' and fathers' feeding practices seem to be better linked to child characteristics than to the presence of eating psychopathology symptoms. Children's emotional eating predicted all 3 controlling feeding practices in mothers and warrants further study to elucidate the causal nature of this relationship.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic and Personal

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.
      Join SNEB today online


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Birch L.L.
        • Fisher J.O.
        • Davison K.K.
        Learning to overeat: maternal use of restrictive feeding practices promotes girls' eating in the absence of hunger.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78: 215-220
        • Faith M.S.
        • Scanlon K.S.
        • Birch L.L.
        • Francis L.A.
        • Sherry B.
        Parent-child feeding strategies and their relationships to child eating and weight status.
        Obes Res. 2004; 12: 1711-1722
        • Birch L.L.
        • Fisher J.O.
        Development of eating behaviors among children and adolescents.
        Pediatrics. 1998; 101: 539-549
        • Blissett J.
        • Farrow C.
        Predictors of maternal control of feeding at 1 and 2 years of age.
        Int J Obes. 2007; 31: 1520-1526
        • Faith M.
        • Berkowitz R.
        • Stallings V.
        • Kerns J.
        • Storey M.
        • Stunkard A.
        Parental feeding attitudes and styles and child body mass index: prospective analysis of a gene-environment interaction.
        Pediatrics. 2004; 114: e429-e436
        • Stein A.
        • Woolley H.
        • McPherson K.
        Conflict between mothers with eating disorders and their infants during mealtimes.
        Br J Psychiatry. 1999; 175: 455-461
        • Francis L.A.
        • Hofer S.M.
        • Birch L.L.
        Predictors of maternal child-feeding style: maternal and child characteristics.
        Appetite. 2001; 37: 231-243
        • Tiggemann M.
        • Lowes J.
        Predictors of maternal control over children's eating behavior.
        Appetite. 2002; 39: 1-7
        • Field A.E.
        • Camargo Jr., C.A.
        • Taylor B.
        • Berkey C.S.
        • Roberts S.B.
        • Colditz G.A.
        Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys.
        Pediatrics. 2001; 107: 54-60
        • Farrow C.V.
        • Blissett J.M.
        Is maternal psychopathology related to obesigenic feeding practices at 1 year?.
        Obes Res. 2005; 13: 1999-2005
        • Haycraft E.
        • Blissett J.
        Controlling feeding practices and psychopathology in a nonclinical sample of mothers and fathers.
        Eat Behav. 2008; 9: 484-493
        • Wardle J.
        • Guthrie C.A.
        • Sanderson S.
        • Rapoport L.
        Development of the children's eating behavior questionnaire.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2001; 42: 963-970
        • Galloway A.T.
        • Fiorito L.
        • Lee Y.
        • Birch L.L.
        Parental pressure, dietary patterns and weight status among girls who are “picky eaters.”.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2005; 105: 541-548
        • Hagekull B.
        • Bohlin G.
        • Rydell A.M.
        Maternal sensitivity, infant temperament, and the development of early feeding problems.
        Infant Ment Health J. 1997; 18: 92-106
        • Pliner P.
        • Loewen E.R.
        Temperament and food neophobia in children and their mothers.
        Appetite. 1997; 28: 239-254
        • Blissett J.
        • Meyer C.
        • Haycraft E.
        Maternal and paternal controlling feeding practices with male and female children.
        Appetite. 2006; 47: 212-219
        • Haycraft E.L.
        • Blissett J.M.
        Maternal and paternal controlling feeding practices: reliability and relationships with BMI.
        Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008; 16: 1552-1558
        • Johannsen D.L.
        • Johannsen N.M.
        • Specker B.L.
        Influence of parents' eating behaviors and child feeding practices on children's weight status.
        Obes Res. 2006; 14: 431-439
      1. Office for National Statistics. The National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification User Manual. Updated August 1, 2008. Accessed June 16, 2010.

        • Birch L.L.
        • Fisher J.O.
        • Grimm-Thomas K.
        • Markey C.N.
        • Sawyer R.
        • Johnson S.L.
        Confirmatory factor analysis of the Child Feeding Questionnaire: a measure of parental attitudes, beliefs and practices about child feeding and obesity proneness.
        Appetite. 2001; 36: 201-210
        • Buss A.H.
        • Plomin R.
        Theory and measurement of EAS.
        in: Temperament: Early Developing Personality Traits. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ1984: 84-104
        • Mathiesen K.S.
        • Tambs K.
        The EAS temperament questionnaire: factor structure, age trends, reliability and stability in a Norwegian sample.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1999; 40: 431-439
        • Garner D.M.
        Eating Disorders Inventory 2: Professional Manual.
        Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, FL1991
        • Spillane N.S.
        • Boerner L.M.
        • Anderson K.G.
        • Smith G.T.
        Comparability of the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 between women and men.
        Assessment. 2004; 11: 85-93
        • Derogatis L.R.
        Brief Symptom Inventory: Administration, Scoring and Procedures Manual.
        4th ed. National Computer Systems, Minneapolis, MN1993
        • Morlan K.K.
        • Tan S.Y.
        Comparison of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Brief Symptom Inventory.
        J Clin Psychol. 1998; 54: 885-894
        • Child Growth Foundation
        Cross Sectional Stature and Weight Reference Curves for the UK.
        Child Growth Foundation, London, United Kingdom1996
        • Cole T.J.
        • Bellizzi M.C.
        • Flegal K.M.
        • Dietz W.H.
        Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey.
        Br Med J. 2000; 320: 1240
        • Taveras E.M.
        • Scanlon K.S.
        • Birch L.L.
        • Rifas-Shiman S.L.
        • Rich-Edwards J.W.
        • Gillman M.W.
        Association of breastfeeding with maternal control of infant feeding at age 1 year.
        Pediatrics. 2004; 114: e577-e583
        • Galloway A.T.
        • Fiorito L.M.
        • Francis L.A.
        • Birch L.L.
        “Finish your soup ”: counterproductive effects of pressuring children to eat on intake and affect.
        Appetite. 2006; 46: 318-323
        • Field A.P.
        Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (and Sex, Drugs, and Rock'n'Roll).
        2nd ed. SAGE Publications, London, United Kingdom2005
        • Tabachnick B.G.
        • Fidell L.S.
        Using Multivariate Statistics.
        4th ed. Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, MA2001
        • Whitehouse P.J.
        • Harris G.
        The inter-generational transmission of eating disorders.
        Eur Eat Disord Rev. 1998; 6: 238-254
        • Carnell S.
        • Wardle J.
        Measuring behavioral susceptibility to obesity: validation of the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire.
        Appetite. 2007; 48: 104-113
        • Saelens B.E.
        • Ernst M.M.
        • Epstein L.H.
        Maternal child feeding practices and obesity: a discordant sibling analysis.
        Int J Eat Disord. 2000; 27: 459-463
        • Whelan E.
        • Cooper P.J.
        The association between childhood feeding problems and maternal eating disorder: a community study.
        Psychol Med. 2000; 30: 69-77
        • Costanzo P.R.
        • Woody E.Z.
        Domain-specific parenting styles and their impact on the child's development of particular deviance: the example of obesity proneness.
        J Soc Clin Psychol. 1985; 3: 425-445