Doctoral thesis

The role of parenting style and parenting stress during preschool age : implications for the child’s eating behaviour


  • Fribourg (Switzerland), [2022]

1 ressource en ligne (213 pages) ; 1 fichier pdf

Thèse: Université de Fribourg (Suisse), 2022

English Eating behaviours are already beginning to establish at a young age. During preschool
years, children gain physical and psychological autonomy from their parents, and at
the same time, develop different behaviours, including those around food and eating.
The preschool period is known to be a critical time for the child’s development, and
the development of problems in eating behaviours are known to be related to future
underweight, overweight and obesity problems including their physical and
psychological consequences, as well as eating disorders. According to the World
Health Organization (WHO), there is a global obesity epidemic, and the ability to
understand the child’s underlying eating behaviours that can influence this trajectory
is of critical importance. Publication 1 validated a German and French version of the
Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ) and was demonstrated to be a valid
instrument to be used among 2-6 year-old boys and girls. Further findings indicated a
need to consider the cultural backgrounds of children. Parents are the most prominent influence of preschoolers, and throughout their feeding practices, they will help the child build his/her own values and attitudes towards food. However, parents do not only influence their child’s behaviour through these practices, but also via their own communication, attitudes and behaviours, that will help build their relationship with their child, and through their parenting styles. The parenting styles are believed to be understood within a dimension of positive versus negative, and have consequences for the well-being, as well as on the behaviours of the child. Publication 2 aimed at finding the associations between different parenting styles and the child’s eating behaviours. Findings indicated an important influence of negative parenting styles, especially inconsistency in parenting, that can be a risk factor in the development of eating behaviour problems in preschoolers. From the results of publication 2, the question of stability of parenting styles throughout childhood has raised concerns for the well-being of the child. Depending on the context of the parent-child dyad, parents are more disposed to offer positive or negative parenting styles and therefore protect or jeopardize the child’s development. Such pressure can elevate the perceived parenting stress and have direct and indirect consequences for the child, and is expected to alter parenting styles. Therefore, publication 3 aimed to evaluate the relations between parenting stress and different parenting styles, and to further investigate the stability of both parenting stress and parenting styles over a year during the preschool period.
Findings indicated a high stability of parenting stress over the year, as well as for all
parenting styles, especially inconsistent parenting. Some parenting styles further
revealed small to medium decreases over the year, whereas others revealed medium
to large increases in the same period. High level of parenting stress predicted lower
levels of only corporal punishment, a year later. Findings of publication 2 and
publication 3 indicate a need for deeper understanding of the mechanisms of
parenting styles on the preschool child’s eating behaviour, and to further investigate
inconsistent parenting, which was found to be most related to eating behaviour, and
the most stable parenting style, although not affected by parenting stress. The results
of publication 3 suggest the need to emphasise consistency in parenting behaviour in
family preventions and treatments for problematic eating behaviour.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
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