Rules to limit snacking in front of the TV and childhood BMI status: Findings from the “Fun Families Study”
Childhood obesity is increasing at epidemic rates, and thus there is a need to target appropriate childhood behaviors that contribute to obesity. Many factors contribute to childhood weight status. The aim of this study was to look at relationships between parental rules to limit snacking while watching television and childhood weight status. The study looked at the presence of the behavior of snacking while watching television yesterday, congruence between child- and parent-reported perception of the presence of rules to limit snacking while watching television, and parent-reported frequency of children following rules to limit snacking while watching television. The outcomes were examined in a multi-ethnic population of children ages 6 to 9 years in Southeast Texas.
This study was a cross-sectional secondary data analysis of the pilot program, Fun Families. This study examined baseline data from 202 parent-child dyads, which included both the control ( N= 101) and intervention groups (N= 101). Data were gathered using validated questions that were administered to 6-9 year old children and their primary caregiver (referred to as parent in the rest of the discussion) in Southeast Texas, between 2006 and 2008. The main study outcome was childhood weight status based on CDC BMI-for-age categories. The independent variables are (1) the presence of parental rules to limit snacking while watching television, (2) the congruence between child and parent about the presence of rules to limit snacking while watching television, and (3) the parent-reported frequency of the child following the rules to limit snacking while watching television. Chi-Square analyses were used to determine if weight status was different for (1) children who reported rules to limit snacking yesterday, (2) children who reported snacking, (3) children whose parents reported rules were present, and (4) those who had rule congruence with the parents not. Chi-Square analyses also examined if there was a difference in the presence of snacking behavior for children who reported rules, for children whose parents reported rules, and for those children who had congruence about rules. Linear regressions were used to determine if any of the studied variables predicted increased weight status or reported snacking while watching television yesterday.
This study found that child-reported snacking yesterday was significantly different for children who reported rules (4.12, p= 0.04). Child-reported rules was significantly associated with (p= -0.14, α= 0.04) and predicted child-reported snacking yesterday (R 2 0.021, p= 0.04, t= -2.04, 95% CI -0.31, -0.01). There was statistical significant incongruence between child and parent perception about the presence of rules to limit snacking yesterday (15.06, p= 0.00). For this population, parent education level was significantly associated with child-reported rules (r= -0.16, p= 0.02), child-reported snacking yesterday (r= -0.15, p= 0.04), and parent-reported frequency of child following rules to limit snacking (r= 0.29, p= -0.01). Parent-reported speaking another language besides English at home was significantly associated with parent-reported rules (r= 0.17, p= 0.02).
Although the studied variables did not show any significant associations or predictors for childhood weight status, the significant discord between parent and child perception about the presence of rules provides valuable information to future interventions that aim to reduce childhood weight status. Including the creation and enforcement of parental rules in interventions to reduce childhood weight status will be beneficial for future studies.