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Interactive effects of parenting behaviour and regulatory skills in toddlerhood on child weight outcomes

A known potential risk factor for childhood obesity is a low capacity for self-regulation, which is the ability to control or modulate behaviours, emotions and cognition across situations. Toddlerhood is critical period for this trait, as it is characterised by the rapid development and differentiation in regulatory capacity. In this study, the researchers investigate the relationship between inherent self-regulation and maternal behaviour.

Two aspects of maternal behaviour were assessed.These were positive responsiveness, which involves willingness to endorse the child’s choices, and gentle control, which involves attempts to change, redirect or elicit child behaviour. Toddler regulation was assessed using a variety of task based activities, questionnaires and experimenter ratings. These were then compared with BMI z scores at 4.5 years old.

This study found two significant interactions between maternal behaviours and toddler regulation in predicting BMI z score. Firstly, greater positive responsiveness during free play was significantly related to lower BMI z for toddlers with poor regulation. Secondly, that greater gentle control was associated with lower BMI z for toddlers with low self-regulation, but higher BMI z in toddlers with high self-regulation. The results suggest both parenting and toddler regulation may have important implications for child obesity.

 

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