Relationship Between Parent Behavior and Children's Eating Habits

Friday, April 3, 2009
Exhibit Hall NA Poster Sessions (Tampa Convention Center)
Marinda Taylor, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID and Jeff Housman, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Research indicates parents' behavior regarding feeding strongly influence development of eating habits in young children. Parents are generally responsible for providing food, selecting what foods are available, and controlling the environment during meals. Satter (2005) suggested feeding habits of parents has changed contributing to development of poor eating habits in children. As the number of children with poor eating habits has increased, so has the incidence of overweight and obesity among youth. Satter's method of feeding includes a division of responsibility and assigns specific duties for parents and children during meals. Parents are responsible for deciding what and when to eat, providing regular meals, providing a variety of foods, and ensuring a comfortable eating environment. Children's responsibilities include eating what is on the table at the times provided, and to eat until full. Satter (2005) suggests teaching children to eat in the manner allows them to intuitive and learn not to overeat. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between parent behavior regarding feeding, environment during meals, and child eating habits. Furthermore, awareness and implementation of Satter's division of responsibility was assessed.

A survey instrument was used to gather data regarding variables. The instrument was developed by the researchers using Satter's division of responsibility. The survey was sent to a panel of experts and a pilot test was performed to establish validity and reliability. Scales were created to measure parent behavior (8 items), environment (7 items), and child eating habits (10 items). Cronbach's alpha indicated reliability scores of 0.79, 0.78, and 0.70 for parent behavior, environment, and child eating habits, respectively. Surveys were administered at local Head Start programs and were completed on a voluntary basis.

Linear regression analysis indicated moderate to strong correlations between parent behaviors and child eating habits (r = 0.473, p < 0.01) and environment and child eating habits (r = 0.701, p <0.01). Additionally, 51.2% of variance in child eating habits was accounted for by parent behavior and environment. Furthermore, having a higher education level, being married, and being white were positively correlated with implementation of Satter's division of responsibility.

Results suggest a strong relationship between parental aspects of feeding and child eating habits. Satter's division of responsibility provides a method by which parents can establish healthy eating habits in children. Further research is needed to determine long term effects of this feeding style.