The Impact of Puerto Rican Maternal-feeding Practices on Child Obesity Prevention and Development

2013-10-24T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Lisa Aponte-Soto
Childhood obesity impacts a third of all American children. Racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States have higher prevalence rates of obesity in comparison to their White counterparts. Specifically, Puerto Rican children in the Chicago Humboldt Park community are disproportionately affected by obesity, which manifests in poorer health outcomes. Researchers have found that parental sociocultural and socioeconomic factors play an important role in shaping early childhood health behavior and are among the noted contributors predisposing children to obesity risk. However, research assessing Latina child-feeding strategies in relation to child obesity is primarily centered on the experiences of Mexican Americans, which is not generalizable across Latino subgroups. Namely, the impact of Puerto Rican child-feeding styles on obesity risk is poorly understood. As the second largest Latino subgroup in the United States, it is important to understand the different experiences, perceptions, and beliefs of Puerto Ricans in relation to acculturation and engagement in risky behavior. Thus, this study employed a descriptive cross-sectional survey to assess the relationship of Puerto Rican maternal child-feeding practices to child obesity, dietary intake, and acculturation. A purposive sample of 100 mother-child pairs recruited from six early childhood centers in Humboldt Park participated between May 2011 and December 2011. Data analyses were performed using SPSS v.20 and SAS v.9.2. Girls (33% body mass index; 62% waist circumference) had a higher risk for obesity than boys (22% body mass index; 51% waist circumference). Maternal encouragement of food restriction and child control may increase the risk for child obesity. Dietary intake may mediate the relationship between child-feeding and child weight status, particularly, the consumption of sweet snacks. Acculturation strengthened the relationship between child-feeding practices and child obesity when waist circumference was used as a measure rather than body mass index. Findings will inform policy development and best practices for structuring and implementing future obesity prevention intervention programs tailored to Puerto Rican populations.