Hunger in the household
Food insecurity and associations with maternal eating and toddler feeding
Background Research is needed to identify how food insecurity affects maternal eating behavior and child feeding practices, factors that may pose intergenerational risks for obesity.
Objectives This longitudinal study investigated whether maternal restrained eating mediated the association between household food insecurity and feeding practices.
Methods Participants included 277 WIC-eligible mothers (69% below the poverty line, 70% African American) and their toddlers (M-age = 20.11 months, SD = 5.50) participating in a childhood obesity prevention trial. Maternal reports of household food insecurity, restrained eating, and child feeding practices (restrictive and responsive) were collected at baseline, 6 and 12 months and analyzed using multilevel mediation.
Results Forty percent of mothers reported some degree of household food insecurity over 12 months. Within-person analyses showed that relative increases in household food insecurity were indirectly related to increases in restrictive and decreases in responsive child feeding practices, mediated through increases in mothers' own restrained eating.
Conclusions Relative change in household food insecurity (rather than overall severity) appears to have indirect effects on toddler feeding practices, through mothers' own eating. Stable household food security without transient food insecurity may improve health and wellbeing for both mothers and children.