Background: Parental feeding practices are associated with children's body mass index (BMI). It has been generally assumed that parental feeding determines children's eating behaviors and weight gain, but feeding practices could equally be a parent's response to child weight. Objective: In longitudinal analyses, we assessed the directionality in the relation between selected controlling feeding practices and BMI in early childhood. Design: Participants were 4166 children from the population-based Generation R Study. BMI was measured at ages 2 and 6 y. With the use of the Child Feeding Questionnaire, parents reported on restriction, monitoring, and pressure to eat (child age: 4 y). BMI and feeding-behavior scales were transformed to SD scores. Results: With the use of linear regression analyses, there was an indication that a higher BMI at age 2 y predicted higher levels of parental restriction (adjusted β = 0.07; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.10) and lower levels of pressure to eat (adjusted β = -0.20; 95% CI: -0.23, -0.17) 2 y later. Restriction at age 4 y positively predicted child BMI at 6 y of age, although this association attenuated to statistical nonsignificance after accounting for BMI at age 4 y (β = 0.01; 95% CI: -0.01, 0.03). Pressure to eat predicted lower BMI independently of BMI at age 4 y (β = -0.02; 95% CI: -0.04, -0.01). For both restriction and pressure to eat, the relation from BMI to parenting was stronger than the reverse (Wald's test for comparison: P = 0.03 and < 0.001, respectively). Monitoring predicted a lower child BMI, but this relation was explained by confounding factors. Conclusions: Although the feeding-BMI relation is bidirectional, the main direction of observed effects suggests that parents tend to adapt their controlling feeding practices in response to their child's BMI rather than the reverse. Therefore, some components of current programs aimed at preventing or treating unhealthy child weight may need to be carefully scrutinized, especially those targeting parental food-related restriction and pressure to eat.,
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Department of Psychology

Jansen, P., Tharner, A., van der Ende, J., Wake, M., Raat, H., Hofman, A., … Tiemeier, H. (2014). Feeding practices and child weight: Is the association bidirectional in preschool children?. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(5), 1329–1336. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.088922