Eating behaviours of preadolescent children over time: stability, continuity and the moderating role of perceived parental feeding practices

The links between childhood eating behaviours and parental feeding practices are well-established in younger children, but there is a lack of research examining these variables in a preadolescent age group, particularly from the child’s perspective, and longitudinally. This study firstly aimed to examine the continuity and stability of preadolescent perceptions of their parents’ controlling feeding practices (pressure to eat and restriction) over a 12 month period. The second aim was to explore if perceptions of parental feeding practices moderated the relationship between preadolescents’ eating behaviours longitudinally. Two hundred and twenty nine preadolescents (mean age at recruitment 8.73 years) completed questionnaires assessing their eating behaviours and their perceptions of parental feeding practices at two time points, 12 months apart (T1 and T2). Preadolescents’ perceptions of their parental feeding practices remained stable. Perceptions of restriction and pressure to eat were continuous. Perceptions of parental pressure to eat and restriction significantly moderated the relationships between eating behaviours at T1 and T2. The findings from this study suggest that in a preadolescent population, perceptions of parental pressure to eat and restriction of food may exacerbate the development of problematic eating behaviours.