Maternal sensitivity in early childhood and body mass index in adolescence: A population-based study on the role of self-regulation as a mediator

Patricia Bravo, Rodrigo Cárcamo, Susana Santos, Ank Ringoot, Marinus H van IJzendoorn, Manon H J Hillegers, Pauline W Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Maternal sensitivity has been implicated in various aspects of child health and development, including overweight. However, long-term effects, the role of paternal sensitivity and the explanatory pathways are unclear. This study examined whether maternal sensitivity in early childhood is prospectively associated with adolescent body mass index and whether children's self-regulation mediates this relation. Data from 540 children and their mothers were available from a large cohort study in the Netherlands. Maternal sensitivity was assessed at child ages 1, 3, and at 4 years paternal sensitivity was also included. Children's self-regulation skills were observed at age 3, eating behaviour was assessed at 10 years, and child BMI was measured at 13 years. Longitudinal structural equation modelling was applied. The cross-sectional association between maternal sensitivity and child self-regulation was significant, while lower levels of self-regulation and higher levels of food responsiveness and restrained eating predicted a higher child BMI at 13 years. Furthermore, a direct association of paternal sensitivity at 4 years with BMI at 13 years was found, but only in girls. Maternal sensitivity was not directly associated with child BMI after adjusting for covariates. Our findings showed the importance of self-regulation in the early years for subsequent weight development. Nevertheless, as self-regulation could not explain the relationship between parenting and child weight, research should focus on the contribution of other contextual factors, such as feeding styles and the social environment, to this relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106418
JournalAppetite
Volume182
Early online date12 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Dec 2022

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