Better quality of mother–child interaction at 4 years of age decreases emotional overeating in IUGR girls Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: While most "fetal programming" area focused on metabolic disease, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is also associated with a preference for less healthy food. Post-natal factors such as strained maternal-child interactions are equally related to obesogenic eating behaviors. We investigated if IUGR and the quality of the mother/child relationship affect emotional overeating in children. SUBJECTS/METHODS: Participants were 196 children from a prospective birth cohort (the MAVAN project). As part of the protocol at 4 years of age, mothers completed the Children Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ) and mother-child interactions were scored during a structured task. A GLM adjusted for BMI examined the interaction between the "Atmosphere" score (ATM) task, sex and IUGR on the emotional over-eating domain of the CEBQ. RESULTS: There was a significant interaction of BWR vs. sex vs. ATM (P = .02), with no effects of IUGR, sex or ATM. The model was significant for girls with low ATM scores (B = -2.035, P = .014), but not for girls with high (P = 0.94) or boys with high (P = .27) or low (P = .19) ATM scores. Only in IUGR girls, 48 months emotional over-eating correlated with BMI at that age (r = 0.560, P = 0.013) and predicted BMI in the subsequent years (r = 0.654, P = 0.006 at 60 months and r = 0.750, P = 0.005 at 72 months). CONCLUSIONS: IUGR and exposure to a negative emotional atmosphere during maternal-child interactions predicted emotional overeating in girls but not in boys. The quality of mother-infant interaction may be an important target for interventions to prevent emotional overeating and overweight in early development, particularly in girls with a history of IUGR.


  • Escobar, RS
  • O'Donnell, KA
  • Colalillo, S
  • Pawlby, S
  • Steiner, Meir
  • Meaney, MJ
  • Levitan, RD
  • Silveira, PP

publication date

  • October 2014