Parenting and child body mass index: Longitudinal investigation of maternal and paternal influence
The aim of this study was to investigate the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between general parenting and body mass index (BMI) status of children between the ages of 4 and 7 in Australia. A nationally representative sample of 4,423 children (49% female) and their parents was used for the present study. Measures of parental demandingness and responsiveness were completed by parents at child age 4–5 years. Height and weight measurements of children were taken at child age 4–5, and again at 6–7, from which BMI status was calculated. No influence of mothers' parenting on child BMI status was shown, and fathers' responsiveness was found to be predictive of increased risk for overweight/obesity at 6–7 years. While the present study is complicated by measurement issues, findings suggest that increased risk for overweight in young children may be associated with responsiveness in fathers. Obesity prevention programs involving parents should take into account the influence of fathers' parenting on child BMI status.