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Parental feeding practices as potential moderating or mediating factors in the associations between children’s early and later growth



Given inconsistent results in the literature, our objective was to examine the role of early parental feeding practices in children’s growth.


Analyses were based on 1245 children from the EDEN mother–child cohort. Parental feeding practices were assessed at the 2-year follow-up by using the Comprehensive Feeding Practices Questionnaire. International Obesity Task Force BMI z-scores were derived from weight and height assessed at 2, 4, 6, and 8 years. Associations between parental feeding practices and child BMI z-scores at 4, 6 and 8 years were assessed by multivariable linear regressions, notably adjusted for 2-year BMI z-score. Analyses were stratified by child sex when relevant. Moreover, interaction and mediation analyses were respectively performed to assess whether parental feeding practices could moderate or mediate the associations between early and later growth.


For a given BMI z-score at 2 years, parental restriction for weight at 2 years was positively associated with child BMI z-scores from 4 to 8 years (at 8 years: β [95% CI] = 0.09 [0.01; 0.16]). Among boys only, high use of food as a reward was positively associated with later BMI z-scores (at 8 years: β [95% CI] = 0.15 [0.03; 0.27]). Parental feeding practices were not moderating factors in the associations between early and later growth. Parental restriction for weight was a mediating factor in the associations between 2-year BMI z-score and BMI z-scores up to 8 years (mediation: 2.69% [0.27%; 5.11%] of the total effect at 8 years).


Restriction for weight reasons, often used by parents in response to the child’s high appetite in infancy, appears to lie on the pathway between early and later BMI, but not restriction for health, suggesting that parental way of restricting the child’s food intake matters.

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Fig. 1: Sample selection.

Data availability

The data underlying the findings cannot be made freely available for ethical and legal restrictions imposed because this study includes a substantial number of variables that together could be used to re-identify the participants based on a few key characteristics and then be used to access other personal data. Therefore, the French ethics authority strictly forbids making these data freely available. However, they can be obtained upon request from the EDEN principal investigator. Readers may contact to request the data. The code book and analytic code will be made available upon request pending application and approval.


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The authors thank the EDEN mother–child cohort study group, whose members are I. Annesi-Maesano, J.Y. Bernard, M.A. Charles, P. Dargent-Molina, B. de Lauzon-Guillain, P. Ducimetière, M. de Agostini, B. Foliguet, A. Forhan, X. Fritel, A. Germa, V. Goua, R. Hankard, B. Heude, M. Kaminski, B. Larroque, N. Lelong, J. Lepeule, G. Magnin, L. Marchand, C. Nabet, F. Pierre, R. Slama, M.J. Saurel-Cubizolles, M. Schweitzer, and O. Thiebaugeorges.


The EDEN study is supported by Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM), French Ministry of Research: Federative Research Institutes and Cohort Program, INSERM Human Nutrition National Research Program, and Diabetes National Research Program (through a collaboration with the French Association of Diabetic Patients [AFD]), French Ministry of Health, French Agency for Environment Security (AFSSET), French National Institute for Population Health Surveillance (InVS), Paris‐Sud University, French National Institute for Health Education (INPES), Nestlé, Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale (MGEN), French-speaking Association for the Study of Diabetes and Metabolism (ALFEDIAM), National Agency for Research (ANR non‐thematic programme), and National Institute for Research in Public Health (IRESP: TGIR 2008 cohort in health programme).

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CG and BLG designed the research, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. AHC analysed the data. BH and MAC oversaw the EDEN study. BH and MAC were responsible for data collection in EDEN. BLG had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. All authors reviewed drafts, provided critical feedback, read and approved the final manuscript, were responsible for the final content of the paper and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

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Correspondence to Claire Guivarch.

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Guivarch, C., Cissé, A.H., Charles, MA. et al. Parental feeding practices as potential moderating or mediating factors in the associations between children’s early and later growth. Int J Obes 47, 190–196 (2023).

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