Family food talk, child eating behavior, and maternal feeding practices

Abstract Families discuss food and eating in many ways that may shape child eating habits. Researchers studying how families talk about food have examined this process during meals. Little work has examined parent-child food-related interactions outside of mealtime. We assessed family food talk at home outside of mealtime and tested whether food talk was associated with obesogenic child eating behaviors, maternal feeding practices, or child weight. Preschool and school-aged mother-child dyads (n = 61) participated in naturalistic voice recording using a LENA (Language ENvironment Analysis) recorder. A coding scheme was developed to reliably characterize different types of food talk from LENA transcripts. Mothers completed the Children's Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ) and Child Feeding Questionnaire (CFQ) to assess child eating behaviors and maternal feeding practices. Child weight and height were measured and body mass index z-score (BMIz) calculated. Bivariate associations among food talk types, as a proportion of total speech, were examined and multivariate regression models used to test associations between food talk and child eating behaviors, maternal feeding practices, and child BMIz. Proportion of child Overall Food Talk and Food Explanations were positively associated with CEBQ Food Responsiveness and Enjoyment of Food (p's < 0.05). Child food Desire/Need and child Prep/Planning talk were positively associated with CEBQ Enjoyment of Food (p < 0.05). Child Food Enjoyment talk and mother Overt Restriction talk were positively associated with CEBQ Emotional Over-Eating (p < 0.05). Mother Monitoring talk was positively associated with CFQ Restriction (p < 0.05). Mother Prep/Planning talk was negatively associated with child BMIz. Food talk outside of mealtimes related to child obesogenic eating behaviors and feeding practices in expected ways; examining food talk outside of meals is a novel way to consider feeding practices and child eating behavior.