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Title:Family chaos, attachment security, and responsiveness: Associations with appetite self-regulation in early childhood
Author(s):Saltzman, Jaclyn A.
Director of Research:Fiese, Barbara H.; Bost, Kelly K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fiese, Barbara H.; Bost, Kelly K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McBride, Brent A.; Liechty, Janet M.
Department / Program:Human Dvlpmt & Family Studies
Discipline:Human Dvlpmt & Family Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):self-regulation, family, parent, child, appetite, eating behavior, chaos, routines, attachment, obesity
Abstract:Until recently, the majority of studies examining the etiology of excessive early childhood weight gain have focused on correlates or risk factors related to nutrition and physical activity (Woo Baidal et al., 2016). However, several promising areas for future research on obesity prevention have been identified, particularly in regards to child emotional and behavioral regulation (Lumeng, Taveras, Birch, & Yanovski, 2015), parent-child attachment relationships (Frankel et al., 2012), and the family context (Fiese & Bost, 2016; Woo Baidal et al., 2016). This is the first set of studies to examine how attachment and individual characteristics inform the development of appetite self-regulation, within the context of the family system. Study 1. The first study aimed to identify whether there are domain-specific or domain-general associations between feeding and emotional responsiveness, and appetite and non-appetitive self-regulation. Few studies have assessed whether appetite self-regulation is subsumed as an undifferentiated aspect of overall self-regulation, or if it is a distinct characteristic with variation unexplained by general behavioral self-regulation. Similarly, although theoretical literature posits that feeding responsiveness is one component of responsive parenting generally, no empirical studies have examined whether it is truly differentiated from emotional responsiveness in the mealtime context. Confirmatory factor analyses were applied to observational and self-report data collected from a subsample of families (n = 110) of 18-24 month old children in the larger STRONG Kids 2 (SK2) Birth Cohort Project (N = 451). Findings indicate that responsiveness is a domain-specific construct, but that appetite self-regulation may be one dimension of a higher-order domain-general construct of overall self-regulation. Appetite self-regulation was distinct, but highly related to children’s non-food related executive functioning. Feeding responsiveness was distinct from emotional responsiveness, and self-reported emotional responsiveness was distinct from emotional responsiveness observed during mealtimes. These findings highlight the importance of specificity in context and measurement. Study 2. The second study aimed to examine associations between maternal attachment, family factors (household chaos, distractions, family mealtime routines), and maternal responsiveness. Structural equation modeling techniques were applied to observational and self-report data collected from the subsample of families in the SK2 project (n = 110), to assess direct, indirect, and interactive effects of family and attachment factors on responsiveness. More household chaos was associated with less feeding and self-reported emotional responsiveness. More maternal mealtime distractions were associated with less observed emotional responsiveness. Regarding interactive effects, mothers who were more distracted at mealtimes and highly insecure engaged in less observed emotional responsiveness. However, more household chaos was associated with less self-reported emotional responsiveness only among very secure mothers; very high levels of attachment insecurity attenuated these effects. Study 3. The third study aimed to examine direct, indirect, and interactive associations between family factors, attachment, and appetite self-regulation in early childhood. Path analyses were applied to observational and self-report data collected from the subsample of families in the SK2 project (n = 110), to assess direct, indirect, and interactive effects of family factors, attachment, and responsiveness on child appetite self-regulation. Family factors (high chaos, few routines) were directly—but not indirectly via responsiveness—associated with child appetite dysregulation. Routines were associated with child appetite dysregulation among children of mothers who were highly insecure. Chaos was associated with appetite dysregulation among children of mothers who reported less emotional responsiveness. Family and attachment factors play an important role in promoting parent responsiveness and child appetite dysregulation. These studies provide a window into the ways that these processes may influence child health. Together, findings point to a need to consider the multifaceted nature of risk and resilience, and specificity in measurement and conceptualization for future studies. This study contributes nuance to the literature on self-regulation and responsiveness, and specificity to our understanding of how individual differences in appetite self-regulation develop in early childhood. The long-term aim of this program of research is to develop recommendations for interventions designed to prevent childhood obesity.
Issue Date:2018-04-12
Rights Information:© 2018 Jaclyn A. Saltzman
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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