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Maternal depression, stress and feeding styles: towards a framework for theory and research in child obesity

  • Ana F. El-Behadli (a1), Carla Sharp (a2), Sheryl O. Hughes (a3), Ezemenari M. Obasi (a4) and Theresa A. Nicklas (a3)...


Against the background of rising rates of obesity in children and adults in the USA, and modest effect sizes for obesity interventions, the aim of the present narrative review paper is to extend the UNICEF care model to focus on childhood obesity and its associated risks with an emphasis on the emotional climate of the parent–child relationship within the family. Specifically, we extended the UNICEF model by applying the systems approach to childhood obesity and by combining previously unintegrated sets of literature across multiple disciplines including developmental psychology, clinical psychology and nutrition. Specifically, we modified the extended care model by explicitly integrating new linkages (i.e. parental feeding styles, stress, depression and mother's own eating behaviour) that have been found to be associated with the development of children's eating behaviours and risk of childhood obesity. These new linkages are based on studies that were not incorporated into the original UNICEF model, but suggest important implications for childhood obesity. In all, this narrative review offers important advancements to the scientific understanding of familial influences on children's eating behaviours and childhood obesity.

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* Corresponding author: T. A. Nicklas, email


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