• Individual, Caregiver, and Family Characteristics Associated with Obesity in Preschool-age Children

      Rahmaty, Zahra; Johantgen, Mary E.; 0000-0001-6165-0881 (2021)
      Background and Objectives: Eating habits start from early childhood and may contribute to the development of obesity. Food neophobia (FN) occurs among 50% of preschoolers and has shown inconsistent associations with obesity. Caregiver feeding practices (FPs) influence eating habits but have limited evidence about how they employ together and how they associate with childhood obesity. The first paper examines the relationship between FN and preschooler's obesity/overweight. The second paper assesses patterns of FPs and their associated factors. The third paper examines how the patterns of FP relate to preschoolers' Body Mass Index (BMIz), an objective measure of obesity. Method: Data from the Creating Healthy Habits Among Maryland Preschoolers (CHAMP) study including preschoolers (N=500) and caregivers from 50 Maryland childcare centers were examined. Children's weight and height were measured, and BMI percentile and z-score were calculated. Caregivers reported demographics, weight and height, FN, FPs, child temperament via an online survey. Mixed models, factor analysis, latent profile analysis, and structural equation models were used. Results: A quarter of children were obese/overweight; caregiver-reported FN was not associated with preschoolers' obesity/overweight, although children were more likely to be obese/overweight if their caregiver was overweight (aOR=2.6) or obese (aOR=3.9). Three patterns of FP were found. Controlling class had high coercive control and low autonomy practices (69%), Regulating class had high coercive control, but moderate structural and autonomy practices (16%), and Balancing class were moderate in all practices (15%). Caregivers who desired their child to be heavier (aOR=0.40, 95%CI=0.22-0.72), had higher poverty levels (aOR=0.80, 95%CI=0.65-0.98), were single (aOR=0.38, 95% CI=0.18-0.80), and were less likely to be in the Balanced versus Controlling class. Children’s difficult temperament (b=0.09, p=0.008), caregiver’s BMI (b= 0.26, p<0.001), desire for the child to be thinner (b=0.23, p<0.001), desire for child to be heavier (b=-0.37, p<0.001), and Regulating versus Controlling FP (b=-0.09, p=0.03) were associated with child BMIz. Conclusion: Childhood obesity is a multifactorial phenomenon, with interactive effects among the child, family, and environment. FP are associated with preschooler’s weight and should be assessed comprehensively. Caregivers’ perceptions of child size and temperament may also provide insight into FP and obesity.