Maternal feeding practices and fussy eating in toddlerhood: A discordant twin analysis

Harris, Holly A., Fildes, Alison, Mallan, Kimberley M., & Llewellyn, Clare H. (2016) Maternal feeding practices and fussy eating in toddlerhood: A discordant twin analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13(81), pp. 1-9.

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Background: Parental feeding practices are thought to play a causal role in shaping a child’s fussiness; however, a child-responsive model suggests that feeding practices may develop in response to a child’s emerging appetitive characteristics. We used a novel twin study design to test the hypothesis that mothers vary their feeding practices for twin children who differ in their ‘food fussiness’, in support of a child-responsive model.

Methods: Participants were mothers and their 16 month old twin children (n=2026) from Gemini, a British twin birth cohort of children born in 2007. Standardized psychometric measures of maternal ‘pressure to eat’, ‘restriction’ and ‘instrumental feeding’, as well as child ‘food fussiness’, were completed by mothers. Within-family analyses examined if twin-pair differences in ‘food fussiness’ were associated with differences in feeding practices using linear regression models. In a subset of twins (n=247 pairs) who were the most discordant (highest quartile) on ‘food fussiness’ (difference score ≥.50), Paired Samples T-test were used to explore the magnitude of differences in feeding practices between twins. Between-family analyses used Complex Samples General Linear Models to examine associations between feeding practices and ‘food fussiness’.

Results: Within-pair differences in ‘food fussiness’ were associated with differential ‘pressure to eat’ and ‘instrumental feeding’ (ps<.001), but not with ‘restriction’. In the subset of twins most discordant on ‘food fussiness’, mothers used more pressure (p<.001) and food rewards (p<.05) with the fussier twin. Between-family analyses indicated that ‘pressure to eat’ and ‘instrumental feeding’ were positively associated with ‘food fussiness’, while ‘restriction’ was negatively associated with ‘food fussiness’ (ps<.001).

Conclusions: Mothers appear to subtly adjust their feeding practices according to their perceptions of their toddler’s emerging fussy eating behavior. Specifically, the fussier toddler is pressured more than their less fussy co-twin, and is more likely to be offered food rewards. Guiding parents on how to respond to fussy eating may be an important aspect of promoting feeding practices that encourage food acceptance.

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ID Code: 96468
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Food fussiness, Children, Feeding practices, Twin study, Eating behaviour, Diet
DOI: 10.1186/s12966-016-0408-4
ISSN: 1479-5868
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 The authors
Deposited On: 30 Jun 2016 23:41
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 06:05

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