Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Perceived Picky Eating in a Low-Income, Primarily Hispanic Sample

Michelle Katzow*, Caitlin Canfield, Rachel S. Gross, Mary Jo Messito, Carolyn Brockmeyer Cates, Adriana Weisleder, Samantha Berkule Johnson, Alan L. Mendelsohn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Feeding concerns are common in the first 2 years of life and typically reflect maternal perceptions occurring within the larger context of the parent-child relationship. We aimed to determine whether (1) maternal depressive systems predicted perceived picky eating, mediated by maternal negative perceptions; (2) receipt of the Video Interaction Project (VIP) parenting intervention impacted perceived picky eating through this pathway; and (3) perceived picky eating was associated with child growth or subsequent dietary patterns. Methods: We performed a partial longitudinal analysis of 187 low-income, predominantly Hispanic mother-child dyads enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of the VIP. Mother-infant dyads were enrolled postpartum in an urban public hospital. Participants randomized to the VIP met with an interventionist on days of well-child visits; sessions were designed to facilitate interactions in play and shared reading through provision of learning materials and review of videotaped parent-child interaction; the curriculum did not contain feeding-specific elements. We used structural equation modeling to determine direct, indirect, and total effects of maternal depressive symptoms, maternal negative perceptions, and the VIP on perceived picky eating. We then tested associations between perceived picky eating and (1) child growth, using multivariable linear regression and multilevel modeling; and (2) subsequent child dietary consumption, using multivariable multinomial logistic regression. Results: Maternal depressive symptoms had significant total effects on negative maternal perceptions (β = 0.32, p < 0.001) and perceived picky eating (β = 0.21, p < 0.01) after controlling for potential confounders. This effect was partially mediated by maternal negative perceptions (indirect effect: β = 0.06, p = 0.04). When used in the model as the predictor, the VIP had a significant total effect on perceived picky eating (β = -0.16, p = 0.02), which was partially mediated by maternal depressive symptoms and negative perceptions (indirect effect: β = -0.05, p = 0.02). Perceived picky eating was not associated with child diet at age 2 years or adiposity from 6 months to 3 years. Conclusion: Maternal concerns about picky eating may reflect deeper depressive symptoms and negative perceptions of her child's behavior. Interventions designed to facilitate positive parenting in general may lessen feeding-specific concerns, such as picky eating. Although reassurance about growth and nutritional outcomes for children perceived as picky eaters is appropriate, clinicians should also consider probing for underlying symptoms of depression that could lead to eating concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-715
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • infant feeding
  • maternal depression
  • maternal perceptions
  • picky eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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