Authoritative Mothers Exhibit More Permissive Feeding Practices Eating Away from Home with their Children
Eating away from home has been identified as one possible contributor to childhood obesity, with links to poor diet quality and higher weight status due to dietary quality of meals at restaurants and consumers' attitudes. Parenting style has been associated with children's weight status and overall attitudes toward food, with authoritative parenting being shown to help protect against childhood obesity. The current study aimed to compare and contrast parenting and feeding practices at home and in the restaurant. Twenty-five mothers with children, ages five to eight, who ate at restaurants at least two times per week participated in facilitated, individual interviews. Interviews topics included: parenting, child input in choosing restaurants and restaurant meal selection, and food rules and practices at restaurants versus at home. Socio-demographic information, parenting style, and the mothers' heights and weights were gathered, with descriptive statistics computed. Interview data were transcribed, then thematically coded using NVivo software. All mothers scored highest on authoritative parenting styles. Participating mothers were Caucasian, well-educated, with above-average family incomes. Mothers had an average of 2.2 children and a BMI of 27.9 kg/m². Mothers described more stringent behavioral expectations and more permissive food rules at restaurants. Parents had greater influence in determining whether to eat away from home and where, whereas children had greater responsibility for meal selections at restaurants. The results suggest that practices may differ at restaurants than at home, highlighting the importance of further research, along with educational and behavioral strategies directed toward mothers when eating away from home.