Effect of a responsive parenting intervention on child emotional overeating is mediated by reduced maternal use of food to soothe: The INSIGHT RCT

Holly A. Harris, Stephanie Anzman-Frasca, Michele E. Marini, Ian M. Paul, Leann L. Birch, Jennifer S. Savage*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Child emotional overeating is a risk factor for obesity that is learned in the home environment. Parents' use of food to soothe child distress may contribute to the development of children's emotional overeating. Objectives: To examine the effect of a responsive parenting (RP) intervention on mother-reported child emotional overeating, and explore whether effects are mediated by mother-reported use of food to soothe child distress. Methods: The sample included primiparous mother-infant dyads randomized to a RP intervention (n = 105) or home safety control group (n = 102). Nurses delivered RP guidance in four behavioral domains: sleeping, fussy, alert/calm, and drowsy. Mothers reported their use of food to soothe at age 18 months and child emotional overeating at age 30 months. Mediation was analyzed using the SAS PROCESS macro. Results: RP intervention mothers reported less frequent use of food to soothe and perceived their child's emotional overeating as lower compared to the control group. Food to soothe mediated the RP intervention effect on child emotional overeating (mediation model: R2 = 0.13, P '.0001). Conclusions: Children's emotional overeating may be modified through an early life RP intervention. Teaching parents alternative techniques to soothe child distress rather than feeding may curb emotional overeating development to reduce future obesity risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12645
JournalPediatric obesity
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK088244); National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR000127); the Children's Miracle Network at Penn State Children's Hospital; US Department of Agriculture (2011‐67001‐30117), which supported graduate students; and the Pennsylvania State University Clinical and Translational Science Award from the Penn State Clinical and Translational Research Institute, which supported research electronic data capture. The authors acknowledge Jessica Beiler, MPH, Jennifer Stokes, RN, Patricia Carper, RN, Heather Stokes, Susan Rzucidlo, MSN, RN, Lindsey Hess, MS, and Eric Loken, PhD, for their assistance with this project. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 World Obesity Federation


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