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Associations of parental feeding styles with child snacking behaviour and weight in the context of general parenting

  • Gerda Rodenburg (a1) (a2), Stef PJ Kremers (a3), Anke Oenema (a3) and Dike van de Mheen (a1) (a2)



To examine cross-sectional and longitudinal (one-year follow-up) associations of parental feeding styles with child snacking behaviour and weight in the context of general parenting, taking into account the multidimensionality of the controlling feeding style.


Linear regression analyses were performed. Parents completed a questionnaire to measure five feeding style dimensions (Instrumental Feeding, Emotional Feeding, Encouragement, Overt Control and Covert Control) and children's fruit, energy-dense snack and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intakes. Children's height and weight were measured to calculate their BMI Z-scores. Moderation by parenting style was tested by adding interaction terms to the regression analyses.


Observational study in the Netherlands.


Parent–child dyads (n 1275) participating in the INPACT (IVO Nutrition and Physical Activity Child cohorT) study; children were (on average) 9 years of age.


Instrumental Feeding and Emotional Feeding were negatively related to child fruit intake one year later and positively to (changes in) child energy-dense snack intake. Encouragement was negatively related to child energy-dense snacking and SSB intake one year later. Overt Control was cross-sectionally and prospectively related to (changes in) child energy-dense snacking and SSB intake in a negative direction. Covert Control showed similar associations with child energy-dense snacking and SSB intake as Overt Control. Although Covert Control was also positively related to child fruit intake and (changes in) child BMI Z-score, bootstrapping analyses revealed only a differential effect of Overt Control and Covert Control on child BMI Z-score one year later, with Covert Control displaying a stronger, positive association. Moderation analyses showed that some significant associations between parental feeding styles and outcome measures were dependent on the degree of psychological control and behavioural control.


Instrumental Feeding and Emotional Feeding may have a detrimental impact on children's snacking behaviour, while Encouragement, Overt Control and Covert Control may lead to less energy-dense snacking and less SSB intake. Overt Control and Covert Control have differential effects on child BMI Z-score one year later, which supports the idea that they should be treated as separate constructs. Prospective studies with a longer follow-up may elucidate the causal pathways between the various feeding styles and children's snacking behaviour and weight, as well as the moderating influences of psychological and behavioural control.

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