November 02, 2016
2 min read

Responsive parenting reduces high energy-density food intake in infants

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NEW ORLEANS — In infants with a negative temperament, a responsive parenting intervention may help reduce the intake of high energy-density foods, especially sweets and fried foods, according to a presenter here.

“Negative temperament has previously been recognized as a risk factor for childhood obesity,” Emily E. Hohman, PhD, of the department of human biology, nutritional biochemistry, nutrition and dietetics at Pennsylvania State University, said during her presentation. “In infants, we defined negative affects as individual differences in distress to limitations, sadness, fear and recovery from stress. Several papers have shown that negative temperament in infancy has been linked to more rapid growth in infancy as well as greater adiposity in infancy and early childhood. However, responsive parenting practices that encourage parents to respond more appropriately to their child’s temperament may help to attenuate this risk.”

Hohman and colleagues evaluated data from the Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories study on 279 primiparous mother-newborn dyads randomly assigned to a responsive parenting intervention or control group after birth.

“Responsive parenting can be defined as mothers’ prompt, contingent and appropriate interactions with their child,” Hohman said.

Researchers sought to determine whether negative affect and distress to limitations at 1 year predicted intake of high energy-density foods and beverages and whether the responsive parenting intervention moderates the relationship.

Intervention content for the responsive parent group was delivered by nurses at home visits when infants were aged 3, 16, 28 and 40 weeks. Participants attended a clinic visit at 1 year. The Infant Behavior Questionnaire and an infant food frequency questionnaire were completed by mothers at 1 year. The likelihood of having consumed high energy-density foods and beverages within the previous week was examined by logistic regression.

At 1 year, sugar-sweetened beverages were consumed by 11.3% of infants in the previous week, 50% consumed 100% fruit juice, 66.7% consumed sweets and 50% consumed fried foods; rates were not significantly different between the study groups.

The likelihood of consuming sweets was lower among infants with higher negativity if they were in the responsive parenting group compared with controls (P = .02). Infants with greater distress to limitations were less likely to consume fried foods (P = .03) and sweets (P = .02) if they were in the responsive parenting group compared with controls. Despite study group, infants with greater negativity were more likely to have consumed fruit juice (P = .06) and sugar-sweetened beverages (P = .006).

“Responsive parenting may help moderate risk of consuming age-appropriate high energy-density food in more negative infants; however, this effect was not seen for beverages,” Hohman said. “Different strategies may be needed to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage and juice intake in infants, particularly among those at higher risk due to negative temperament.” – by Amber Cox


Hohman E, et al. Oral T-OR-2033. Presented at: ObesityWeek 2016; Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2016; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Hohman reports no relevant financial disclosures.