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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Nutrition, Food Science, and Hospitality

First Advisor

Bonny Specker


Objective: To investigate whether relationships exist between parent eating behaviors, child feeding practices and adiposity in their children. Gaining insight into these associations may help in designing and targeting obesity prevention strategies. Research Methods and Procedures: Parents of 148 children ages 3 to 5 years (70 girls, 78 boys) returned two questionnaires: the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire which measured parental disinhibited eating, restrained eating, and perceived hunger; and the Child-Feeding Questionnaire which assessed parent's weight history, control over children's eating, perceived child's eating risk, and child's future health concerns. Parental body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2) was calculated from self-reported height and weight. Children's BMI was also calculated, along with weight-for-height percentile based on the Centers for Disease Control growth references for children, and percent body fat as measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry analysis. Results: Mothers scored higher than fathers on parent weight history, restraint, and disinhibition. Fathers scored higher on control. Mothers who scored higher on disinhibition and hunger had a higher BMI. Mothers and fathers who scored higher on weight history were more concerned about their child's eating risk, and also reported a current greater BMI. Additionally, mothers who had a higher BMI reported more future IV health concerns of their child. Daughter's BMI was associated with mother's BMI, mother's perceived child's eating risk, mother's and father's weight history, and was negatively associated with father's education. Daughter's percent fat correlated with father's control and future health concerns. Son's BMI was associated with mother's BMI, father's weight history, and mother's and father's perceived child's eating risk. Discussion: Among these 148 children, parent eating behavior was not directly related to children's percent fat or relative weight measurements. However, it is likely that if a parent was overweight as a child, their child is presently overweight. Also, parents who were overweight as children tend to have higher BMIs as adults and have a greater amount of concern regarding their children's current eating habits. This implies that obesity prevention strategies should be aimed at families as a whole rather than the individual.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Food habits
Children -- Nutrition
Parental influences
Obesity in children




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