Aim: The present study assessed the relationship between maternal attitudes, beliefs and child feeding practices. It was hypothesised that: (i) maternal control over feeding would increase when mothers perceived their children as over- or underweight and were concerned about the weight status of their children; and (ii) mothers would express more concern about their daughters' weight, and report higher levels of control over feeding as a result. Methods: Participants included 112 mothers and their children aged 2-6 years who were attending swim lessons at a Central Coast swim school. Mothers completed the Child Feeding Questionnaire to assess maternal attitudes, beliefs and control over child feeding. Child and maternal body mass indexes were measured. Correlational analyses, t-tests and multiple regression analyses were performed. Results: Mothers reported a high overall level of control in child feeding, and a low level of concern for child weight. Child overweight and obesity were marginally lower than reported in previous studies. Mothers reported more concern for their daughters' weight, but did not report increased control over feeding based on child gender. Pressure to eat was negatively associated with maternal education, suggesting a link between socioeconomic status and child feeding practices. Mothers displayed higher levels of parental control over obese than normal-weight children, suggesting that they accurately assessed the weight status at the obese level. Conclusion: Mothers may be able to detect obesity in their children, but not overweight. Mothers may also be unconcerned about their sons' weight, and this discrepancy should be investigated in clinical and educational settings. Nutrition education and child obesity prevention and treatment programs should take maternal attitudes, perceptions and child feeding practices into account when planning interventions.
- Childhood obesity
- Maternal attitude