Like Mother, Like Child: The Influences of Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors on Weight-Related Health Behaviors in Their Children

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Background: Childhood obesity has become a global health issue, yet little is known about the influence of maternal factors on children’s weight-related health behaviors (dietary habits and physical activity), especially in China. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of maternal factors on children’s eating behaviors and physical activity in Chinese preschool-age children. Method: A cross-sectional study was utilized to describe weight-related health behaviors among preschool-aged children and identify maternal factors that are associated with children’s weight-related health behaviors in China. Mothers completed questionnaires regarding family eating and activity habits, child feeding practices, and maternal self-efficacy regarding their child’s health-related health behaviors. Results: A total of 222 mother–child dyads participated in this study. Maternal health-related behavior and attitudes regarding feeding practices and self-efficacy were associated with children’s health-related behaviors, including eating behaviors and physical and sedentary activities. The influence of maternal behaviors and attitudes were domain specific. Discussion: Improvement of children’s health behaviors, promoting a healthy lifestyle of the mother and self-efficacy, and providing health home environment for the child are critical in obesity prevention. Implications for Practice: Because children’s health is critical to the health of the nation and to global development, understanding the factors related to children’s health-related behaviors is an important first step toward development of tailored, culturally sensitive interventions for promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing obesity.

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