Childhood Obesity Prevention: Acculturation and Feeding Practices of Low-Income Latino Families



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Background: Latinx children are disproportionately affected by obesity in the United States, with second- and third-generation Latinx children having higher levels of obesity than first-generation immigrants. Parental feeding practices in response to children’s hunger and satiety cues have been associated with children’s weight status and may offer one possible explanation for these rising obesity rates among Latinx children. Purpose: The extent to which parental acculturation relates to feeding practices among low-income Latino families is not well documented. The proposed study examined to what extent maternal acculturation moderated the effects of a seven-week family-based childhood obesity prevention program (Strategies for Effective Eating Development) on parental feeding attitudes and behaviors. Methods: Participants (208 low-income Latina mothers and their preschool children) were part of a randomized control trial conducted in a large urban area in the Southern U.S. and a medium-sized town in the rural, Inland Pacific Northwest of the U.S. The study used a validated measure of English acculturation (the Bidimensional Acculturation Scale) and a comprehensive measure of feeding practices (the Food Parenting Inventory). Five separate two-way analysis of covariance (2-way ANCOVA) were implemented to test the moderating effect of English acculturation on the effect of the 7-week childhood obesity prevention program on components of parental feeding attitudes and practices (Family Meals, Structure, New Foods, External Control, and Responsiveness). Results: Results indicated that the intervention was effective in increasing mother’s feeding attitudes and practices in the area of Responsiveness (to children’s internal cues of hunger and fullness), only among mothers reporting higher levels of English acculturation. Conversely, the reduction of the use of excessive parental pressure/coercion or indifference/lack of involvement while feeding their children (i.e. External Control) only appeared to be effective among mothers endorsing low levels of English acculturation. The intervention was equally effective regarding the secondary goals of increasing exposure and acceptance of New Foods, increasing the Structure and predictability of how meals are prepared and served at home, and increasing the regularity and consistency of mealtimes and parental involvement in determining child’s portion size (Family Meals) among mothers reporting both high and low levels of English acculturation. Conclusion: These findings provide evidence of successful childhood obesity prevention efforts in four out of five components of examined maternal feeding attitudes and practices. Results highlight the possible shortcoming of the SEEDS prevention program in effectively and equitably targeting mothers reporting lower levels of maternal English acculturation as related to the parental feeding practice of Responsiveness.



acculturation, childhood obesity, maternal feeding attitudes and practices