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Appetite. 2013 Aug;67:30-6. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.03.009. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Do maternal body dissatisfaction and dietary restraint predict weight gain in young pre-school children? A 1-year follow-up study.

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Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, USA.



The relationships between maternal body image and eating concerns and increases in body mass index (BMI) in early childhood are poorly understood. Our aim was to test a model in which mothers' BMI, body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint and concerns about their child's weight were related to restrictive feeding practices and child BMIz change.


Mothers of 2-year-old children (n=202, aged between 1.5 and 2.5years) reported concerns regarding their own and their child's weight, their dietary restraint, and restrictive feeding practices. Height and weight were measured for children and reported by mothers at baseline and 1-year later.


Thirty five percent of mothers and 29% of children were in overweight or obese categories at baseline. Using path analysis, after adding an additional pathway to the proposed model the final model provided a good fit to the data (χ(2) (8)=5.593, p=.693, CFI=1.000, RMSEA=.000), with maternal dietary restraint directly predicting change in child BMIz over the year. Concern about child's weight and, to a lesser extent, maternal dietary restraint mediated the relationship between maternal body dissatisfaction and the use of restrictive feeding practices. However, the pathway from restrictive feeding practices to change in child BMIz was not significant.


Mothers' BMI and body dissatisfaction may contribute indirectly to weight change in their young children. Interventions targeting maternal body dissatisfaction and informing about effective feeding strategies may help prevent increases in child BMIz.

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