Analyzing Parent-Child Feeding Through Child Behavior and Feeding Relationship Disturbance

Connor Lynch, “Analyzing Parent-Child Feeding Through Child Behavior and Feeding Relationship Disturbance”
Mentor: W. Hobart Davies, Psychology

Feeding relationship disturbance can stem from the parent’s and child’s attitude toward mealtime as well as the environment surrounding the mealtime. In the parent-child feeding relationship, feeding relationship disturbance may be related to the child’s problematic behavior, including internalizing symptoms (ex: feels hopeless), externalizing symptoms (ex: fights with other children), and attention problems (ex: has trouble concentrating). Studies suggested that children with feeding relationship disturbance and are more likely to experience behavior dysregulation (Winsper & Welke, 2014; Dovey et al., 2019). While previous research has investigated the relationship between feeding relationship disturbance and child behavior among preschool age children, this relationship has not yet been studied among school age children. The aim of this study is to evaluate the relationship between parent-feeding child-feeding relationship and child behavior among school age children. It is hypothesized that an increase disruption to the parent-child feeding relationship will be correlated with an increase in child problem behavior. A community sample of caregivers, recruited by students in an advanced psychology course, completed an online survey including the About Your Child’s Eating (AYCE) inventory and Pediatric System Checklist (PSC-17), as part of a larger online survey. The AYCE measures feeding relationship disturbance as child resistance to eating, positive mealtime environment, and parent aversion to mealtime. The PSC-7 measures the child’s behavior through the constructs of internalizing, attention, and externalizing. Pearson correlations were conducted to analyze the relationship between AYCE measures and child problem behaviors. The study resulted in significant correlations across internalizing systems and parent aversion to mealtime (r(159) = 0.299, p = 0.001) and externalizing and parent aversion to mealtime (r(158) = 0.413, p = 0.001) among others showing a relationship between feeding relationship disturbance and child problem behavior. These findings argue that psychologists should evaluate child behavior when treating feeding relationship disturbance.

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  1. Connor,

    This is really compelling work, but what you shared via this presentation left me with so many questions:
    what was on the parent questionnaire?
    what is child problem behavior?
    how does food provided factor into this?
    what positive steps can the parents take?
    why is marital status a factor you want to research in the future?
    If you had included more slides with additional information, I would have been more sated – no pun intended!

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for taking a look at my poster and for the questions! I will answer them to the best of my ability, but please let me know if you would like any further clarification.

      The parent questionnaire included many scales to collect data intended to be used in the Child Stress and Coping lab led by Prof. Davies. The scales we chose to use in our research were the About Your Child’s Eating (AYCE) and the Pediatric System Checklist (PSC-17).

      Child problem behavior is the same behaviors as defined by the Pediatric System Checklist (PSC-17). These are internalizing symptoms, externalizing symptoms, and attention problems.

      Food provided by the parent factors into this study as it is part of the mealtime environment. A child being a picky eater is part of child resistance to eating, depending on how the parent provides food to their child it can be part of parent aversion to mealtime, and as mealtimes are centered around food the food provided can impact the mealtime environment .

      As far as positive steps the parents can take, this really revolves around their own relationship to the mealtime environment. It would need to be determined on a case-by case basis, and by a specialist in the field. As our research shows a correlation between child problem behavior and parent aversion to mealtime, making sure that the parent takes an active and positive role in the mealtime as opposed to avoiding it or leaving the mealtime up to the child may reduce these problem behaviors.

      Marital status would be an important thing to research in the future as it has a large impact on the home life of the child, mealtime included. Research into different marital statuses and the resulting mealtime environments may reveal differences in child behavior compared to our findings.

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