Office of Epidemiology and Research, Division of Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

Diet, feeding practices, and obesity in children with intellectual disabilities

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Project Number: R40 MC 25678
Grantee: University of Massachusetts Medical School
Department/Center: EK Shriver Center
Project Date: 2/1/2013

Final Report


Principal Investigator

Linda Bandini, PhD, RD
Associate Professor
200 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA  02452-6319
Phone: 781-642-0280


  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)


Obesity in the general population of children in the US has become a significant health concern, with the prevalence of childhood obesity having tripled over the last twenty years (Ogden, 2010). Children who are obese are likely to remain so as adults, and excess weight substantially increases risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. A growing body of evidence suggests that the prevalence of obesity in children with intellectual disabilities (ID) is at least as high or higher as that seen in typically developing (TD) children. Although significant efforts are underway to understand and prevent obesity in children generally, little research has been done in children with ID despite the fact that the factors that give rise to obesity in children with ID may not be the same as in TD children. Moreover, a substantial literature has evolved that examines the role that parenting styles and feeding practices play in the development of obesity in the general population; however, few studies have examined this phenomenon in children with ID. The behavior of children with ID pose unique and significant challenges to their parents that likely have an impact on feeding practices. In this proposal we will examine the eating patterns, mealtime behaviors, and the relationship of parenting styles and parental feeding practices to weight status in children with ID ages 3-8 yrs compared to TD children of the same age. We will use a modified food frequency questionnaire and a 3-day food record to collect dietary data and several validated measures to assess parent feeding practices, feeding styles, and child mealtime behaviors. This line of research is important for understanding whether and how these factors are associated with obesity, and has implications for the subsequent development of tailored obesity prevention and intervention strategies specifically designed for this population of children and their families. This project is responsive to the MCHB's Strategic Research Issue #IV: Promoting the Healthy Development of MCH Populations.




Obesity & Weight, Parenting, Nutrition & Diet, Developmental Disabilities, Special Health Care Needs

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