Parental perceptions of eating behaviors, and body image and the risk for obesity in children from food desert areas in Berrien County, Michigan

Document Type


Publication Date



Obesity, Food Security


Background: Childhood Obesity has tripled in the United States since the 1970s with one in five school-aged children being obese. In Berrien County, Michigan, roughly, 72% of adults are overweight or obese. The social context that includes low socioeconomic status and mother’s perception of child’s body image and eating behaviors that influence dietary patterns in children are not well understood. Study objective is to assess the relationship of parent’s perception of eating behaviors and body image with risk for obesity in toddlers participating in the Berrien County’s WIC program. Methods: A random sample consisting of forty-one parents from Berrien County completed a Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ) that consisted of 35 eating behavior questions categorized into five different eating behaviors. In addition, to identify parental perceptions of child’s eating behaviors, we examined the body image choice of the silhouettes of children chosen by the mother. Results: Analysis of the CEBQ questionnaire data using SPSS (v.24) suggests a strong relationship between parental perception of child’s image and BMI (r = 0.67, p<0.01). Similarly, in an age-adjusted regression model, parental perception was a significant predictor of child’s BMI (r 2 = 0.4). Perceptions of mothers of child’s eating behaviors based on Silhouettes was consistent with the CEBQ data. Food responsiveness significantly correlated with emotional overeating, enjoyment of food, and emotional undereating. However, these behaviors did not significantly predict BMI. Conclusions: Our study suggests that mother’s perceptions of child’s eating behaviors were accurate in identifying child’s risk for obesity.


Paper presented at the APHA 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo, Atlanta.

First Department

Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness

Second Department

Physical Therapy