Parents as agents of change for the prevention of obesity in young children
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The purpose of this research was to determine the effects of a weight loss program on maternal nutrition knowledge and the diet and activity of her 1-3 year old child. In addition, physical, demographic, dietary, and psychosocial factors related to child weightfor-height were examined. All four studies utilized data from one sample of low-income, tri-ethnic mothers and children (n=191). In study 1, a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for 1-3 year olds was developed and validated in 77 tri-ethnic, low-income mothers who completed FFQs and 3-day diet records for their child. Reliability was evaluated by comparing food group servings/day on test- and retest-FFQs. Concurrent validity of the FFQ as compared to 3-day diet records also was determined. Mean coefficients were 0.69 for reliability, 0.41 for validity, and 78% of the children were classified correctly. In study 2, 91 Hispanic, African American, and Caucasian, overweight/obese mothers of a 1-3 year old child participated in an 8-week program emphasizing healthful eating, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Energy intakes of the child were reduced to acceptable levels, and both mothers and children decreased total/saturated fat, high-fat snacks/desserts, sweetened beverages, and fast foods, and increased home-prepared meals. Physical activity also improved in both mothers and children. In study 3, 101 tri-ethnic, low-income 1-3 year old children and their mothers were measured for height and weight and mothers completed demographics, psychosocial, and child dietary data. Multiple regression revealed that the modifiable factors of mother’s weight and child’s inactivity and lower % of energy from carbohydrate, and the non-modifiable factors of family history of diabetes and child’s age were related to greater child weight-for-height. These factors explained 29% of the variance in weight-for-height. In study 4, the relationship of nutrition knowledge to weight loss in 141 low-income, tri-ethnic mothers of children 8-months to 12-years was examined. The intervention improved the nutrition knowledge of mothers in all areas of interest. Participants who achieved successful weight loss (≥ 5 pounds) had greater nutrition knowledge on both pre- and at post-tests than those who did not lose weight. Responders appeared more cognizant of information about diet, health, and weight loss.