Objective: Mealtime emotional climate (MEC) is related to parent feeding and mental health, and possibly to child food consumption. However, MEC has been inconsistently assessed with a variety of coding schemes and self-report instruments, and has not been examined longitudinally. This study aims to characterize MEC systematically using an observational, count-based coding scheme; identify whether parent feeding or mental health predict MEC; and examine whether MEC predicts child food consumption and weight. Methods: A subsample of parents (n=74) recruited from a larger study completed questionnaires when children were about 37 months, participated in a home visit to videotape a mealtime when children were about 41 months, and completed questionnaires again when children were about 51 months old. Maternal and child positive and negative emotions were coded from videotaped mealtimes. Observational data were submitted to cluster analyses, to identify dyads with similar emotion expression patterns, or MEC. Logistic regression was used to identify predictors of MEC, and Analysis of Covariance was used to examine differences between MEC groups. Results: Dyads were characterized as either Positive Expressers (high positive, low negative emotion) or All Expressers (similar positive and negative emotion). Increased food involvement feeding practices were related to decreased likelihood of being an All Expresser. Positive Expressers reported that their children ate more healthy food, compared with All Expressers. Conclusions: Observed MEC is driven by maternal emotion, and may predict child food consumption. Food involvement may promote positive MEC. Improving MEC may increase child consumption of healthy foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-206
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • body weight
  • child
  • emotions
  • family
  • longitudinal studies
  • meals
  • observational methodology
  • parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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