A recent study involving researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health is the first to look at the parenting of teenagers in food secure versus insecure homes.
Studies of families with young children have found that food insecure mothers use parenting strategies that encourage the consumption or overconsumption of high-calorie foods, and pressure their children to eat. Results from this study showed that mothers with teenagers in food-insecure homes were more likely to report using parenting practices that encouraged dieting with their teenagers. They were also more likely to frequently comment on their teen’s weight compared to mothers from food secure homes.
Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, professor in the School of Public Health, and Dr. Katherine Bauer, assistant professor in the College of Public Health at Temple University, conducted the research as part of Minnesota’s Project EAT.
The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The findings suggest that contrary to how food-insecure mothers approach eating with their young children, food-insecure mothers of teens are more likely to use parenting practices aimed at limiting eating, perhaps driven by a belief that teens can go without food more easily than young children or eat at locations other than home such as school or friends’ homes.
“We were very disturbed by the high percentage of adolescents and their families from Minneapolis and St. Paul, who participated in EAT 2010, who experienced food insecurity,” said Dr. Neumark-Sztainer. “In fact, over one-third of the families had some level of food insecurity.”
To address the issues tied to food insecurity, Dr. Neumark-Sztainer and Dr. Bauer suggest that in addition to increasing access to healthy food for food insecure families, programs may have longer-lasting effects on families’ health if they help parents develop more health-promoting parenting strategies related to food and eating.