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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Aug;16(8):1821-5. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.255. Epub 2008 May 15.

Familial transmission of eating behaviors in preschool-aged children.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.


To examine weight-related differences in eating behaviors and nutrition of preschool-aged children, the influence of maternal eating behavior on the child's eating behavior, and sex-related differences in the transmission of eating behaviors. A total of 142 mothers of children aged 3-6 years participated. Maternal and child's eating behaviors as well as child's food consumption were assessed using questionnaires completed by mothers. Maternal BMI and child's standardized BMI (BMI-SDS) were also calculated. More than half of the mothers were obese. Multiple regression analysis was used to predict eating behavior of the children by mothers' variables. Overweight children scored higher in external eating, food responsiveness, and speed of eating than normal-weight children, whereas children of overweight mothers showed higher amounts of emotional eating than children of normal-weight mothers. Maternal emotional eating (R(2) = 0.19, P < 0.001) and mother's BMI (R(2) = 0.07, P < 0.05) positively predicted emotional eating of sons. Maternal emotional eating (R(2) = 0.19, P < 0.01) completely mediated the relation between mother's BMI and emotional eating of sons. For mother-daughter dyads, no such relation was found. The tested model shows sex-related differences in the transmission of maternal eating behavior which is discussed as being related to the development and maintenance of obesity.

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