Parent modeling and child food consumption

Sarah M Masood, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Obesity, among both children and adults, is a growing public health epidemic. One area of interest relates to how and why obesity is developing at such a rapid pace among children. Despite a broad consensus about how controlling feeding practices relate to child food consumption and obesity prevalence, much less is known about how non-controlling feeding practices, including modeling, relate to child food consumption. This study investigates how different forms of parent modeling (no modeling, simple modeling, and enthusiastic modeling) and parent adiposity relate to child food consumption, food preferences, and behaviors towards foods. Participants in this experimental study were 65 children (25 boys and 40 girls) aged 3-9 and their parents. Each parent was trained on how to perform their assigned modeling behavior towards a food identified as neutral (not liked, nor disliked) by their child during a pre-session food-rating task. Parents performed their assigned modeling behavior when cued during a ten-minute observation period with their child. Child food consumption (pieces eaten, grams eaten, and calories consumed) was measured and food behaviors (positive comments toward food and food requests) were recorded by event-based coding. After the session, parents self-reported on their height and weight, and children completed a post-session food-rating task. Results indicate that parent modeling (both simple and enthusiastic forms) did not significantly relate to child food consumption, food preferences, or food requests. However, enthusiastic modeling significantly increased the number of positive food comments made by children. Children's food consumption in response to parent modeling did not differ based on parent obesity status. The practical implications of this study are discussed, along with its strengths and limitations, and directions for future research.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health

Recommended Citation

Masood, Sarah M, "Parent modeling and child food consumption" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1533365.