Parental Feeding Behaviors and Weight-Related Concerns in Children With Special Needs

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Abstract

Parental feeding behaviors and concern about child weight are associated with obesity among youth who are typically developing. Little is known about this relationship among parents of youth with special needs, despite these children having higher obesity risk. This study used an online survey to explore associations among parental feeding behaviors, parent weight concerns, demographics, and child weight status in a sample of 356 parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, spina bifida, and Down syndrome. Specific parental feeding behaviors were significantly related to the child’s weight and intensified when the parent was concerned about the child’s weight. Child’s diagnosis, family income, parent age, and parent gender influenced select feeding behaviors. Obesity has significant health ramifications and negatively affects an individual’s ability to self-manage, which is crucial in individuals with special needs. These findings present an opportunity for the health care community to educate and promote healthy feeding practices in this vulnerable population.

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