Household Chaos, Maternal Emotional Responsiveness, and Child Eating Behavior: A Moderation Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective:To address calls for a resilience-informed approach to understand the cause and prevention of childhood obesity, the current study aims to investigate the independent and interactive associations between household chaos, maternal emotional responsiveness, and eating behavior in early childhood.Method:A sample of (n = 108) families of 18- to 24-month-olds completed self-report surveys and consented to home visits as part of the larger STRONG Kids 2 (N = 468) study. Videotapes of family mealtimes were collected during home visits and coded for observed maternal emotional responsiveness. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing maternal emotional responsiveness, household chaos, and child eating behaviors. Moderation analyses assessed independent and interactive effects of chaos and emotional responsiveness on child appetite self-regulation.Results:In moderation analyses controlling for demographic covariates, higher levels of chaos were associated with more emotional overeating and with more food responsiveness, but only among children of mothers observed engaging in low levels of responsiveness at mealtimes. There was no association between chaos and eating behavior among children of mothers observed engaging in high levels of emotional responsiveness at mealtimes. There was also no independent or interactive association between chaos and child eating behaviors characterized by food avoidance.Conclusion:Preliminary evidence suggests that maternal emotional responsiveness at mealtimes may attenuate the deleterious effects of chaos on child overeating and food responsiveness. Future research should prioritize using longitudinal designs, developing observational assessments of early childhood eating behaviors, and understanding these processes among families exposed to greater socioeconomic adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-632
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • chaos
  • direct observation
  • eating behavior
  • emotion
  • mealtime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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