Exploring the association between parental anti-fat attitudes and restrictive feeding practices in a British and Irish sample

MacKenzie D. A. Robertson*, Sarah Dempster, Lauren Doherty, Helen Sharpe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Parental restriction of food intake has been associated with heightened eating disorder psychopathology in some longitudinal research. Yet, relatively little is known about the determinants of restrictive feeding practices. This cross-sectional study explored the association between parents' anti-fat attitudes and their use of restrictive feeding practices in a mixed British (41.10% England, 39.90% Scotland, 4.20% Other) and Irish (14.80%) sample. Parents and caregivers (N = 472; 94.10% female; 70.90% university level education) of children between the ages of 4-8 (48.20% female; 91.10% rated as "normal weight" by their parents) completed self-report questionnaires assessing their anti-fat attitudes (dislike, fear, and blame subscales), use of restrictive feeding practices (for weight control, health purposes, and covert restriction), and how influential their child's body-weight and -shape is for their perception of themselves as parents. Overall, our hypothesis that parental anti-fat attitudes would be significantly associated with restrictive feeding practices was supported. Anti-fat attitudes related to disliking higher body-weight people and blaming parents for their child's weight were significant predictors of all forms of restrictive feeding (all ps < .05). However, anti-fat attitudes related to fearing being a higher body-weight were not significant predictors of restrictive feeding for the purposes of health nor for covert restriction (ps > .05). Additionally, our hypothesis that the associations between anti-fat attitudes and restrictive feeding practices would be stronger for parents for whom their child's body-weight and -shape more strongly influenced how they judged themselves as parents was not supported (the interaction term was not significant in two out of three analyses). Future research is needed to investigate these associations across time and in samples of higher body-weight children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105755
Number of pages9
Early online date11 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • anti-fat attitudes
  • restrictive feeding
  • feeding practices
  • parents
  • children
  • survey


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