Maternal mental health is associated with children's frequency of family meals at 12 and 24 months of age
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonHelle, C., Hillesund, E. R. & Øverby, N. C. (2023). Maternal mental health is associated with children's frequency of family meals at 12 and 24 months of age. Maternal & Child Nutrition, Article e13552. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.13552
Diet during the child's first years is important for growth and development. In toddlerhood, higher diet quality is reported among children eating meals together with family. Although previous literature has documented several associations between maternal mental health and early child feeding practices, less is known about the relationship between maternal mental health and child frequency of shared family meals. This study explores associations between maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression, measured by The Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (SCL-8), and toddler participation in family meals. We used cross-sectional data from the Norwegian study Early Food for Future Health, in which participants responded to questionnaires at child age 12 (n = 455) and 24 months (n = 295). Logistic regression was used to explore associations between maternal mental health and child having regular (≥5 per week) or irregular (<5 per week) family meals (breakfast and dinner), adjusting for relevant child and maternal confounding variables. Children of mothers with higher scores of anxiety and depression had higher odds of Irregular family meals at both timepoints; (OR: 2.067, p = 0.015) and (OR: 2.444, p = 0.023). This is one of few studies exploring associations between maternal mental health and child frequency of shared family meals in early childhood, a period where the foundation for life-long health is shaped. Given the high prevalence of mental ailments and disorders, these findings are important and may inform future public health interventions. Further exploration of this relation is needed, including longitudinal research to test predictive associations and qualitative studies to increase insight and understanding.