Reported and observed controlling feeding practices predict child eating behaviour after 12 months

Background: Controlling feeding practices are linked to children’s self-regulatory eating practices and weight status. Maternal reports of controlling feeding practices are not always significantly related to independently rated mealtime observations. However, prior studies only assessed 1 mealtime observation, which may not be representative of typical mealtime settings or routines. Objective: The first aim was to examine associations between reported and observed maternal pressure to eat and restriction feeding practices at baseline (T1) and after ∼12 mo (T2). The second aim was to evaluate relations between maternal and child factors [e.g., concern about child weight, child temperament, child body mass index (BMI)-for-age z scores (BMIz)] at T1 and reported and observed maternal pressure to eat and restriction feeding practices (T1 and T2). The third aim was to assess prospective associations between maternal feeding practices (T1) and child eating behaviors (T2) and child BMIz (T2). Methods: A sample of 79 mother–child dyads participated in 2 lunchtime home observations (T1 and T2). BMI measures were collected during the visits. Child temperament, child eating behaviors, maternal parenting styles, and maternal feeding practices were evaluated at T1 and T2 via questionnaires. Associations were assessed with Pearson’s correlation coefficients, paired t tests, and hierarchical regressions. Results: Reported restriction (T1) was inversely associated with observed restriction at T1 (r = −0.24, P < 0.05). Reported pressure to eat (T2) was associated with observed pressure to eat (T2) (r = 0.48, P < 0.01) but only for mothers of girls. Maternal weight concern was associated with reported restriction at T1 (r = 0.29, P < 0.01) and T2 (r = 0.36, P < 0.01), whereas observed restriction (T1) was prospectively associated child BMI at T2 (β = −0.18, P < 0.05). Conclusions: Maternal reports may not always reflect feeding practices performed during mealtimes; it is possible some mothers may not be aware of their practices or observations may not capture covert controlling strategies.