OBJECTIVE: This study investigated whether parental feeding practices, such as pressure to eat, permitting unhealthy food, and restriction of unhealthy food predict children's body mass index (BMI) percentile or if children's BMI percentiles predict parental feeding practices.
DESIGN: Longitudinal data were collected among 526 dyads of children (6-11 years old) and one of their parents. Parents reported parental feeding practices, restriction of unhealthy food, permission of unhealthy food, and pressure to eat. Children's weight and height were assessed objectively. All measurements were conducted twice with a time lag of 10 months.
RESULTS: Cross-lagged panel analyses demonstrated that low levels of children's BMI percentiles (measured at the baseline) predicted parental feeding practices (measured at the follow-up) but not vice versa. Only one effect suggesting bi-directionality was found, with parental restriction of unhealthy food preceding higher levels of children's BMI percentiles at the follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: Parental feeding practices seem to be a reaction to the levels of children's BMI percentiles.