Open Access Open Badges Research

Feeding styles and evening family meals among recent immigrants

Alison Tovar1*, Erin Hennessy2, Aviva Must3, Sheryl O Hughes4, David M Gute5, Sarah Sliwa6, Rebecca J Boulos6, Emily Kuross Vikre6, Christina Luongo Kamins6, Kerline Tofuri6, Alex Pirie7 and Christina D Economos6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Rhode Island, 112 Ranger Hall, Kingston, RI 02818, USA

2 Health Behaviors Research Branch, Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, 9609 Medical Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

3 Dept. of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111, USA

4 Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates, Houston, TX 77030, USA

5 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, Tufts University, 113 Anderson Hall, 200 College Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA

6 Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, 150 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111, USA

7 Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health, 337 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:84  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-84

Published: 26 June 2013


The protective effect of family meals on unhealthy weight gain and diet has been shown across multiple age groups; however, it is unknown whether a similar effect is present among diverse immigrant populations. In addition, little research has focused on factors associated with the frequency of evening family meals, such as feeding styles (how parents interact with their child around feeding). Therefore the goals of this paper are to explore the 1) association between the frequency of evening family meals and child weight status among new immigrant families, and 2) influence of immigrant mothers’ feeding styles on the frequency of evening family meals.

Baseline self-reported socio-demographic information and measured heights and weights were collected for both mother and child (age range: 3–12 years) among 387 mother-child dyads enrolled in Live Well, a community-based, participatory-research, randomized controlled lifestyle intervention to prevent excessive weight gain in recent (<10 years in the U.S.) immigrant mothers and children. For children, height and weight measurements were transformed into BMI z-scores using age-and sex-specific CDC standards and categorized as overweight (85th–94th percentile) and obese (≥95th percentile); mothers’ BMI was calculated. Frequency of evening family meals, eating dinner in front of the TV, acculturation and responses to the Caregiver’s Feeding Styles Questionnaire (CFSQ) were also obtained from the mother. Children were categorized as “eating evening family meals regularly” if they had an evening family meal ≥5 times per week.

Overall, 20% of children were overweight and 25% were obese. Less than half (40.9%) of families had regular evening family meals. In multivariate analyses, adjusting for covariates, children who were overweight/obese were significantly less likely to have ≥5 evening family meals/week compared with normal weight children (OR = 0.51, 95% CI 0.32-0.82) . Mothers who had a low demanding/high responsive or a low demanding/low responsive feeding style, were less likely to have ≥5 evening family meals/week compared to mothers with a high demanding/high responsive feeding style (OR = 0.41, 95% CI 0.18-0.0.96, OR = 0.33, 95% CI 0.13-0.87, respectively). Future interventions and programs that seek to help parents establish healthy household routines, such as family meals, may consider tailoring to specific maternal feeding styles.

Family meal; Feeding styles; Children; Obesity; Immigrants