Eating, feeding, and feeling: Emotional responsiveness mediates longitudinal associations between maternal binge eating, feeding practices, and child weight

Jaclyn A. Saltzman, Maria Pineros-Leano, Janet M. Liechty, Kelly K. Bost, Barbara H. Fiese, Kristin Harrison, Kelly Bost, Brent McBride, Sharon Donovan, Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Juhee Kim, Angela Wiley, Margarita Teran-Garcia, Barbara Fiese, the STRONG Kids Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although it is known that maternal disordered eating is related to restrictive feeding practices, there is little research exploring mechanisms for this association or its effects on other feeding practices. The purpose of this study was to assess whether maternal emotion responses mediate the association between maternal binge eating (BE) and child feeding practices, in order to identify potential risk factors for feeding practices that influence child weight. Methods: This longitudinal observational study included (n = 260) mothers and children from the STRONG Kids Panel Survey. At Wave 1, children were an average of 37 months old (SD = 6.9), and at Wave 2 children were an average of 57 months old (SD = 8.3). Mothers self-reported their frequency of binge eating behavior (Wave 1), responses to children's negative emotions (Wave 1), feeding practices (Wave 1 and Wave 2), and child height and weight were measured at both time points. Using bias-corrected bootstrapping procedures, we tested the hypothesis that longitudinal associations between maternal BE and nonresponsive parent feeding practices would be mediated by parents' unsupportive responses to children's negative emotion. We also tested a serial mediation model positing that maternal BE predicts child body mass index (BMI) percentile change 18-24 months later, indirectly through unsupportive responses to negative emotion and nonresponsive feeding practices. Results: Maternal BE predicted use of more nonresponsive feeding practices (e.g. Emotion Regulation, Restriction for Health, Pressure to Eat, and Food as Reward), indirectly through more Distress responses to children's negative emotions. In the serial mediation model, maternal BE was associated with greater use of Distress responses, which indirectly predicted higher child BMI percentile through Food as Reward feeding practices. Conclusions: These results suggest that maternal eating and emotion responsiveness are important for understanding the interpersonal context of feeding behaviors, and child weight outcomes. Distress responses may serve as a risk factor for use of unhealthful feeding practices among mothers with BE and these responses may increase children's risk for weight gain. Trial registration: This study used an observational prospective design. Therefore, it has not been registered as a clinical intervention trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number89
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2 2016


  • Binge eating
  • Childhood obesity
  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotional responsiveness
  • Feeding Practices
  • Feeding practices
  • Food-related parenting practices
  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Parenting
  • Responsive parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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