Maternal mental health and child feeding problems in a non-clinical group

Objective To compare the contribution of symptoms of anxiety, depression and eating psychopathology to reports of child feeding difficulties in a non-clinical group of mothers of male and female children. Method A community sample of 56 mothers of male children and 40 mothers of female children with a mean age of 32 months completed measures of anxiety, depression, eating psychopathology and child feeding problems. Results In mothers of male children, symptoms of depression and anxiety, but not eating psychopathology, were predictors of difficult feeding interactions. In contrast, in mothers of female children, symptoms of bulimia and depression, but not anxiety, were significant predictors of reported food refusal. Discussion Different aspects of psychopathological symptomology may be risk factors for reports of feeding problems dependent on the child's gender. Further work should continue to assess the nature and motivation for the controlling of feeding behaviors exhibited by mothers of children of different genders.