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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
June 2012

Feeding Behaviors of Mothers Linked to Weight of Children

The feeding behaviors of parents, particularly mothers, may affect a child's intake of nutrient-rich food and risk of obesity, according to a recent study.

Researchers collected information from children between the ages of three and five and their mothers, all of whom participated in the low-income preschool program Head Start. The team analyzed the mothers' feeding behaviors, the children's food intake, and height and weight of both. They calculated the association between parents' feeding behaviors and the children's weight status and likelihood of eating nutrient-rich food.

The results showed that mothers who used directive control were more likely to have children who ate more nutrient-rich food. However, those who used nondirective control had children with lower weight status and body mass index.

The research team concluded that the feeding behaviors of mothers in particular may influence a child's weight as well as how likely they are to eat nutrient-rich food.

Obesity occurs when an individual has an increased amount of body fat. It is usually defined as being 20-30% above the normal body weight for someone of the same age, gender, and height.

Morbid obesity is usually defined as being 50-100% above the normal body weight for someone of the same age, gender and height.

Many factors, including an individual's age, gender and height, are considered to determine if he or she is overweight. People increase in weight until they are fully grown. On average, females tend to gain about 16 pounds of body weight from age 25-54. In contrast, males tend to gain about 10 pounds of body weight from age 25-45. By around age 55, both men and women start to decline in weight. Females naturally have more body fat and less muscles mass than men. It is also normal for taller individuals to weigh more than shorter individuals.

Obesity is typically considered a long-term condition that often persists for many years. Researchers believe that many factors, including poor diet, overeating, pregnancy, medications, medical conditions, genetics, gender and age, may contribute to a person becoming obese.

Obesity can have serious long-term effects on health. Individuals who are overweight have an increased risk of developing many life-threatening illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer. According to the American Heart Association, obesity was associated with nearly 112,000 deaths in 2005.

For more information about obesity, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Murashima M, Hoerr SL, Hughes SO, et al. Feeding behaviors of low-income mothers: directive control relates to a lower BMI in children, and a nondirective control relates to a healthier diet in preschoolers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;95(5):1031-7. Epub 2012 Mar 28. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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