Background

Disinhibited eating behaviors (i.e. loss of control eating (LOC) and eating in the absence of hunger (EAH)) contribute to overeating and thus obesity. To date, no studies have looked at whether these traits are related in parent-child dyads.

Methods

290 treatment-seeking 8-13 year old children with overweight (BMI% 85-99.9) and their parents were included. LOC for children was assessed by the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) interview completed by the child. Parents self-reported their LOC eating and their child’s LOC from the EDE questionnaire. LOC was dichotomized as present or absent. EAH was assessed by questionnaire with child reporting for self and parent reporting for self and child (PforC). Logistic regressions for LOC and regressions for EAH controlling for parent BMI and child sex were conducted.

Results

Parent and child self-reported LOC was not related (B=.37, p=.18); yet, PforC LOC was related to their self-reported LOC (B=1.41, p<.001) and PforC LOC was related to child’s own report of LOC (B=.96, p<.001). For EAH, results showed a similar pattern with no relation when parent and child both responded for self (B=.05, p=.34) but PforC EAH was related to their child’s reported EAH (B=.18; p<.001). There was a significant interaction between parent’s own EAH report and their BMI related to PforC EAH (B=.012, p<.03) such that parents with low BMI reported their EAH lower than those with higher BMI but PforC reports were similar.

Conclusions

When parent and children self-report behaviors, measures of disinhibited eating don’t appear related; however, PforC is related to the parent’s own behavior and child's self-reported behavior. Parent's perception of self likely influences their report of child. Future research should evaluate whether PforC or child’s own report on disinhibited eating behaviors more accurately reflect observed behavior, in particular determine whose subjective report of child disinhibited eating may be related to clinically meaningful outcomes in child treatment.