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Mealtimes are a common source of stress for families. Examining factors related to problem eating may provide markers by which to identify families requiring assistance and salient targets for treatment. The current study investigated parenting practices and cognitions, generalisation of child behavioural issues, and early feeding history as they relate to problem eating in typically developing young children. We compared a community sample of 105 parents of 1.5–6-year-old children via survey and observation with 96 parents seeking treatment for their child’s problem eating. History of problems with breastfeeding, χ2(1) = 3.88, p = .049, and the transition to solids, χ2(1) = 7.27, p = .007, were more common among problem eaters than comparisons. Problem eaters had a greater number of problem behaviours outside of mealtimes, F(1181) = 10.88, p = .001, though not more frequently than comparisons and not to clinical levels, F(1181) = 1.81, p = .181. Parents of problem eaters reported more unhelpful mealtime parenting strategies, F(1155) = 22.59, p < .001, yet general parenting style was similar by group, F(1187) = 0.42, p = .527. Parents’ cognitions about mealtimes, F(1155) = 119.81, p < .001, including mealtime-specific self-efficacy, F(1155) = 171.30, p < .001, were poorer amongst problem eaters, and were the only factors to predict problem eating in the total sample. General parenting self-efficacy was poorer in parents of problem eaters (Behaviour: F(1187) = 42.36, p < .001; Setting: F(1187) = 10.64, p = .001). Evidence of feeding issues in infancy may support early detection of and intervention for later problem eating. The significance of broader child behaviour is less clear. Parent factors, particularly those specific to mealtimes, and cognitive in nature (including mealtime parenting self-efficacy) clearly differentiated the groups, and represent important targets for intervention.
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- Early Feeding, Child Behaviour and Parenting as Correlates of Problem Eating
- Springer US