Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique

Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique

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Development of the General Parenting

RESEARCH Open Access
Development of the General Parenting
Observational Scale to assess parenting during
family meals
Kyung E Rhee1,4*, Susan Dickstein2, Elissa Jelalian2, Kerri Boutelle1,3, Ronald Seifer2 and Rena Wing2
Abstract
Background: There is growing interest in the relationship between general parenting and childhood obesity. However,
assessing general parenting via surveys can be difficult due to issues with self-report and differences in the underlying
constructs being measured. As a result, different aspects of parenting have been associated with obesity risk. We
developed a more objective tool to assess general parenting by using observational methods during a mealtime
interaction.Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique
Methods: The General Parenting Observational Scale (GPOS) was based on prior work of Baumrind, Maccoby
and Martin, Barber, and Slater and Power. Ten dimensions of parenting were included; 4 were classified in the
emotional dimension of parenting (warmth and affection, support and sensitivity, negative affect, detachment), and 6 were
classified in the behavioral dimension of parenting (firm discipline and structure, demands for maturity, psychological control,
physical control, permissiveness, neglect). Overweight children age 8–12 years old and their parent (n = 44 dyads) entering a
weight control program were videotaped eating a family meal. Parents were coded for their general parenting behaviors.Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique
The Mealtime Family Interaction Coding System(MICS) and several self-report measures of general parenting were also
used to assess the parent–child interaction. Spearman’s correlations were used to assess correlation between measures.
Results: The emotional dimensions of warmth/affection and support/sensitivity, and the behavioral dimension of firm
discipline/structure were robustly captured during the family meals. Warmth/affection and support/sensitivity
were significantly correlated with affect management, interpersonal involvement, and communication from the
MICS. Firm discipline/structure was inversely correlated with affect management, behavior control, and task
accomplishment. Parents who were older, with higher educational status, and lower BMIs were more likely to
display warmth/affection and support/sensitivity.Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique
Conclusion: Several general parenting dimensions from the GPOS were highly correlated with similar family
functioning constructs from the MICS. This new observational tool appears to be a valid means of assessing
general parenting behaviors during mealtimes and adds to our ability to measure parent-level factors affecting
child weight-related outcomes. Future evaluation of this tool in a broader range of the population and other
family settings should be conducted.
Keywords: General parenting, Parenting style, Parent behaviors, Childhood obesity, Family meals,
Measurement, Assessment
* Correspondence: k1rhee@ucsd.edu
1Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, San
Diego, La Jolla, USA
4Division of Academic General Pediatrics, Developmental Pediatrics, and
Community Health, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine,
9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0874, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
© 2015 Rhee et al.; licensee BioMed Central. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain
Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article,
unless otherwise stated.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
(2015) 12:49
DOI 10.1186/s12966-015-0207-3
Background
There has been long-standing interest in the influence of
general parenting on many aspects of child development.
In more recent years, there has been particular interest
in its relationship to childhood obesity [1]. However,
measuring general parenting styles can be difficult,
partly due to differences between measures regarding
underlying constructs, level of parenting behavior being
measured, psychometric properties of the measures, and
participants’ understanding of individual assessment
items [2,3]. This variability has resulted in inconsistencies
regarding the relationship between parenting and
childhood obesity [4-7]. As a result, the American Heart
Association and the International Society for Behavioral
Nutrition and Physical Activity have called for better
measures of parenting to help inform the impact of general
parenting on weight related behaviors and ultimately
childhood obesity [2,8].
Within the domain of parent feeding and child nutrition,
there are three different levels of parenting that
have been reported on in the literature: specific parenting
practices, parent feeding style, and general parenting
(Figure 1) [9]. General parenting is the broadest concept
of parenting and is traditionally thought of as the underlying
attitude and socialization goal parents have towards
their children [10]. It often provides the backdrop
or emotional context in which specific parenting behaviors
are delivered and interpreted by the child. As such,
it should not be viewed as what parents do (which is
better defined as specific parenting practices), but how
they do it. Because it represents an underlying attitude
and approach towards parenting however, it can be difficult
to measure. For example, a question that is often
asked in obesity-related research is whether or not parents
limit the amount of food their child eats. This is
generally thought of as a question that assesses a specific
parenting practice. However, parents may do this by
discussing what the appropriate amount is to eat and
encouraging children to slow down and not take seconds
(authoritative style), or by abruptly telling the
child s/he should stop eating and taking the food away
after it has been partially consumed (authoritarian
style). Depending on how the parent limits food intake
(i.e., which general parenting style is used), the impact
of the specific parent behavior (in this case, limiting
food consumption) on child eating behavior or weight
may be altered. This moderating effect of general parenting
on specific parenting practices has been demonstrated
in a few studies [11-13]. For example, van der
Horst and colleagues found that parents were more effective
at limiting their child’s consumption of sugarsweetened
beverages when they used an authoritative
parenting style compared to when they used an authoritarian
parenting style [11]. These studies therefore
indicate that higher-order general parenting is an
important construct to consider when examining the
impact of parent behaviors on child outcomes.
Parent feeding styles reflect the specific attitudes and
socialization goals parents have around feeding their
child [14], and is another level of parenting that has
been examined in relation to pediatric obesity-related
outcomes. While the terminology used to describe parent
feeding styles are derived from the general parenting
literature, this type of parenting is typically thought of as
a domain-specific form of parenting (around food) that
is nested within the broader concept of general parenting.
Because these different levels of parenting have not
always been clearly differentiated in the literature, there
appear to be inconsistent findings around “parenting”
and child obesity-related outcomes [9]. For example, the
indulgent/permissive parent feeding style has been associated
with greater child weight status [15,16] while in
other studies, the authoritarian parenting style (general
parenting) has been associated with greater child weight
status [4,17]. As a result, it can be confusing to delineate
how parenting relates to child obesity-related outcomes.
General parenting
style
Child eating
& activity
behaviors
Child
Weight
Status
Parent feeding
style
Parenting
practices
Figure 1 Parent levels of influence on child behaviors and weight. There are three levels of parenting that have been identified as impacting
child eating and activity behaviors and weight status. The broadest is general parenting style, which is thought to moderate the effect of specific
parenting practices and possibly parent feeding style. Each of these levels of parenting can influence child eating and activity behaviors and
ultimately child weight status, either individually or in conjunction with each other. Child eating and activity behaviors directly affect child
weight status. This relationship however seems to be bi-directional, and child weight status and eating and activity behaviors influence
parenting behaviors.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 2 of 15
Nevertheless, because parent feeding styles pertain to a
different level of parenting and reflect domain specific
goals around child eating, this level of analysis has its
own merit and should be considered separately from the
higher-order dimension of general parenting.
While specific parenting practices or feeding behaviors
often have a stronger relationship with child eating behaviors
and weight status than general parenting [18,19],
there are several studies to suggest that general parenting
style alone is also related to these outcomes
[4,20,21]. This is best demonstrated in a recent study
that involved a general parenting intervention for children
with behavioral problems [22]. The goal of the original
intervention was to improve parents’ ability to
interact with their children and manage their behavioral
problems. While weight loss was not a goal of the original
study and nutrition and physical activity counseling
was not a component of the intervention, they were still
able to demonstrate an effect on obesity rates, with children
from the intervention group having lower rates of
obesity three to five years later compared to children
who did not receive this intervention [22]. Thus it appears
that general parenting can have a significant impact
on broader aspects of child health and well-being.
Understanding the effect of general parenting on these
outcomes will help us determine how to incorporate
parenting training, specifically which aspect of general
parenting training, into obesity prevention and treatment
efforts. However, in order to assess this dimension, better
measures of general parenting need to be developed.
Because general parenting taps into more abstract parenting
concepts like socialization goals and emotional
climate, there is an added complexity to assessing it.
Contemporary parenting measures have typically relied
on self-report or survey items and focus on specific parenting
behaviors [1]. Unfortunately, these types of assessments
can lead to recall bias and have the added
problem of social desirability. Parents may also lack
awareness of their own parenting style and behaviors
[23]. Others have suggested that using child reports of
parenting behavior can result in more relevant accounts
since it is ultimately the child’s perspective of his/her
parent’s behaviors that influence his/her development
[24,25]. However, here again, there are issues with finding
developmentally appropriate measures and assessing
the views of toddlers or preschool children who are unable
to read and write. While there are several newer
methods that have the ability to improve the reliability
of self-report measures (e.g., using implicit measures,
ecological momentary assessment, or computerized
adaptive testing [26]), observational methods are a traditional
method of assessment that allow for more objective
evaluation free from recall bias. Observational methods
have their own limitations, such as social desirability,
coder biases, and time and labor intensity to analyze.
Nevertheless, as interest in the relationship between general
parenting and childhood obesity-related behaviors
grows, additional methods of assessing general parenting
are needed and a return to direct observational methods
may be warranted.
Defining general parenting styles and dimensions
The classic general parenting dimensions include: 1)
warmth, support and responsiveness, and 2) behavioral
control and demands for maturity [27-29]. The dimension
of “warmth, support and responsiveness” is defined by displays
of support and emotional connection with the child
to foster autonomy and self-efficacy. “Behavioral control/
demands for maturity” is characterized by the setting of
expectations for the child to display certain levels of
maturity and compliance with behavioral norms. Crossing
these dimensions result in the four classic parenting styles
of authoritative parenting (high in warmth/support and
behavioral control/maturity demands), authoritarian parenting
(low in warmth/support, high in behavioral control/
maturity demands), permissive parenting (high in
warmth/support, low in behavioral control/maturity demands)
and neglectful parenting (low in warmth/support
and behavioral control/maturity demands) [30]. While
much of the literature focuses on these four parenting
styles, growing attention has been paid to the specific dimensions
encompassing these parenting styles. For coding
purposes, it may also be simpler and more accurate to assess
each of the general parenting dimensions separately.
This will allow us to determine specifically which aspects
of general parenting are affecting child weight-related
outcomes.
Creation of general parenting observational scale
Based on work by Baumrind [27], Maccoby and Martin
[30], Barber [31], and Slater and Power [32], several
dimensions of parenting were selected for this direct observational
scale. These included traditional dimensions
of warmth and support, behavioral control, and demands
for maturity, but also included newer concepts like psychological
control and structure (Table 1). Similar to
how Maccoby and Martin operationalized parenting
[30], these were then divided into two categories of parenting,
one that characterizes the emotional climate of
the parent–child interaction and one that characterizes
the behavioral aspects of parenting.
Emotional dimensions of parenting
The emotional dimensions of parenting included
warmth and affection, support and sensitivity, negative
affect, and detachment. Warmth and affection was rated
on how often the index parent demonstrated love, caring
and affection for the index child, either verbally, physically,
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 3 of 15
or through facial expressions. Support and sensitivity was
rated on how engaged the parent was with what the child
was saying or doing, demonstrating sensitivity to his/her
needs and providing understanding and support for the
child’s behaviors, thoughts, and emotional expressions.
Negative affect was scored when parents demonstrated
Table 1 Parenting dimensions of the General Parenting Observational Scale
GPOS Dimension Definition
EMOTIONAL
DIMENSIONS:
Warmth and affection Parent expresses warmth and affection towards the child by saying “I love you” or other words of affection, praising the
child, or showing that they care about the child. This affection can be reflected in the parent’s tone of voice, facial
expressions, physical signs (like hugging, patting on the back, or gentle touching), or other affectionate acts. Parent may
also provide positive reinforcement for child behaviors. Overall, parent shows genuine affection, care and attachment
towards their child.
Support and sensitivity Parent provides support and helps the child in some manner. Parent can listen to the child’s ideas; shows physical,Development of the General Parenting – Psychology Journal Article Critique
emotional, or intellectual support and understanding of the child’s behaviors, thoughts, or emotions; appreciates the child’s
ideas and behaviors; helps child to problem solve; and helps child through difficulties. Parent is sensitive to the child’s
needs and goals. Ultimately, parent is aware of what the child is doing and adjusting his/her own behavior to take the
child’s behaviors and needs into consideration.
Negative Affect Parent shows anger, hostility, disdain, or disappointment towards the child. Parent may criticize, yell, make fun of child
(mocking), belittle, make sarcastic comments towards child, or be frustrated by what the child is saying or doing. This
attitude can be reflected in the tone of voice, facial expressions, or hostile acts.
Detachment Parent is uninvolved or unresponsive towards the child. For example, the child may do something nice for the parent, but
the parent does not acknowledge it. Parent can be distant or is “going through the motions”, but displays no feeling of
attachment with the child. There is an overall lack of connection with child. Parent may be actively ignoring the child (e.g.
child is trying to interact or get the parent’s attention but is not getting a response, or the child is being “boxed” out of
conversation/interaction).
BEHAVIORAL
DIMENSIONS:
Firm discipline and
structure
This dimension captures how parents structure the environment to control or manage the child’s behaviors. Parents have a
defined set of rules, guidelines, and boundaries for behaviors that are somehow expressed on the recording. For example,
parent may enforce or remind the child about a rule or expectation, explain reasons for a rule, allow discussion around a
rule, provide warnings, or carry through with some disciplinary action or consequence. Parent may demonstrate flexibility
around certain rules but usually has a limit which is not negotiable. Parent tries to be consistent when disciplining and
carry through with the discipline or consequence. He/she expects the child to follow rules and structures the environment
to support these behaviors.
(Parents can be calm or angry when disciplining, but if they are angry, using threats, raising their voice, or bullying, then
also code for negative affect.)
Demands for maturity Parent expects certain behaviors from the child that demonstrate maturity and respect for others, like not interrupting,
saying please and thank you, using a napkin or silverware appropriately, etc. Parent also expects self-control of behaviors,
emotions, and attitudes. Parents may remind the child of these expectations verbally or refer to these expectations through
physical acts, gestures, or facial expressions.
Psychological control This type of control intrudes into the psychological and emotional development of the child, and typically includes guilt or
coercion to influence the child’s behaviors (guilt induction). Parents can show disappointment in the child behaviors or tell
the child about all the sacrifices that were made for the child with the intention of guilting or persuading him/her to
execute or complete the desired behavior. Parent may bring up previous bad behavior as a reminder to influence a new
behavior. Parent may also withdraw affection if the child does something bad (love withdrawal), invalidate the child’s
feelings, make a personal attack on the child, and demonstrate erratic emotional behavior (change their emotional reaction
to suit their needs and goals). Parent can also be intrusive and push his/her goals and agenda on the child without regard
for what the child is doing. Parent typically wants to control all of the child’s behaviors and wants to tell the child what to
do. Child has no autonomy in this situation.
Physical control Parent uses physical force to control the child’s behavior. Parent may physically hurt the child, push or grab the child, or
spank the child when he/she disobeys.
Permissive In this situation, the child usually decides what to do and controls his/her behaviors, actions, and daily schedule. The child
can also determine the rules, e.g. what to eat, how much to eat. There are typically no rules. Parents are more laissez-faire.
They may label the child’s misbehavior, but provide no follow-through with discipline. Parents may be more concerned
with the child liking them and are therefore not as concerned about the discipline. These parents usually cannot say no to
the child.
Neglectful Parent does not provide support or respond to the child’s physical needs. For example, if the child hurts him- or herself,
parent does not respond or show concern; or the parent does not provide more food or drink if the child asks for it or
looks hungry. This is different from detachment in that it does not address the emotional needs of the child.
Dimensions were based on classic parenting concepts introduced by Baumrind, Maccoby and Martin, Barber, and Slater and Power.
Videotapes are divided into 2 minute time-periods and each dimension is scored on a scale from 1 (not at all present) to 5 (present a great deal). Composite
scores are calculated for each dimension based on a 20 minute videotape of a family meal.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 4 of 15
hostility and anger towards the child. Sarcastic remarks
were also included in this category. Parents were scored
for detachment if they were unresponsive towards the
child and displayed any behavioral expression to suggest a
lack of feeling of attachment or interest in what the child
was feeling, saying or doing.
Behavioral dimensions of parenting
The behavioral dimensions of parenting included firm
discipline and structure, demands for maturity, psychological
control, physical control, permissiveness, and
neglect. Firm discipline and structure was rated on how
often parents limited behaviors and enforced rules.
Consistency in enforcing these rules contributed to scoring
in this dimension. Because structure complements
the concept of firm discipline, it was coded together.
Structure is defined as having clear rules and routines,
consistent boundaries, and an organized environment in
which the child can exist [32]. Parenting that does not
include structure does not provide an organized environment
in which the child can learn what their parent’s
behavioral expectations are. The organized home environment
and consistent parenting provided by structure
ultimately provides the child with stable expectations
and an ability to develop and learn new skills successfully
[33]. Recently, this dimension of general parenting
has appeared in a comprehensive self-report measure of
parenting [34] and is garnering more interest in the
field. The use of routines, reference to rules that had
previously been set, or the discussion of new rules were
included when scoring for firm discipline and structure.
Demands for maturity is a behavioral dimension that
compliments that of firm discipline and structure, and
refers to the behavioral expectation that parents have
for their child to demonstrate self-control and maturity.
Parents who remind their children of these behavioral
expectations were coded as displaying demands for maturity.
If any of these demands were delivered with
negative affect, coders would include that rating in the
appropriate emotional dimension of parenting.
In addition to these dimensions, psychological control was
included. Psychological control is different from behavioral
control in that it uses more coercive and emotionally-laden
parenting behaviors (e.g., guilt induction, withdrawal of
love, disappointment, shame) as well as excessive use of
personal control (e.g., possessiveness and protection) to
manage a child’s behaviors [31]. Parents who use this more
intrusive type of parenting often impose their agenda onto
the child, reflecting a more domineering type of control
over the child’s autonomy. This type of parenting can have
a negative impact on child social and emotional growth and
development into an autonomous, independent, and
self-efficacious person. It has also been shown to have a
negative impact on adolescent substance abuse [35],
internalizing problems, and self-efficacy [19]. More recently,
it was found to be associated with higher child
BMI z-scores [36] and was therefore included in this
scale. Psychological control was rated on whether the
parent used coercive behaviors like guilt induction or
withdrawal of love and attention to control or shape the
child’s behaviors. Parents who were intrusive, or showed
little regard for their child’s interests or agenda, were
rated highly on this dimension.
Other aspects of behavioral parenting included physical
control, permissiveness, and neglect. Physical control was
intended to capture any physical actions that the parent
used to control the child’s behavior. Permissiveness was
scored when parents showed little control over their
child’s behaviors and allowed the child to determine the
rules. Parents were also rated as being permissive if they
did not follow through with any suggestion of discipline or
had a hard time placing limits on the child’s behaviors.
Neglect was included to capture parents who were not responsive
to the child’s physical needs. This was meant to
be different from detachment in that detachment pertained
to whether or not the parent addressed the child’s
emotional needs and displayed a level of emotional attachment
with the child. A parent could be detached emotionally,
but still meet the child’s physical needs, and therefore
not be neglectful.
With this new observational schema, we set out to assess
general parenting dimensions during a family meal.
While other parenting coding schemas use the playsituation
[37,38], this setting may not be developmentally
appropriate for older children. Mealtimes offer a
naturalistic setting where parents are often managing
child behaviors, imposing rules and expectations, and
interacting with their children. Furthermore, it allows
one to assess other parent level behaviors, like feeding
style and feeding practices, as well as family functioning
that may be associated with obesity-related outcomes.
Several behavioral observational measures of parent/
caregiver-child interactions during mealtime exist [39-44].
While one of these measures claims to assess maternal
parenting style, closer examination of this tool reveals
that it measures feeding specific behaviors instead (e.g.,
prompts to eat and number of times food is offered)
[39]. Several of the other tools also report on feedingspecific
parenting behaviors or prompts that occur prior
to eating [40,42,43]. Finally, one tool characterizes caregiver
feeding behaviors into the four classic parenting
styles, thus capturing parent feeding styles and not general
parenting per se [44]. As such, very few observational
tools truly assess the higher-order level of general
parenting. The purpose of this study was to develop and
test a tool to assess general parenting as it pertains to
obesity-related outcomes. The Mealtime Family Interaction
Coding System (MICS) has been used in previous
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 5 of 15
studies to assess family functioning in homes with overweight
children [45,46] and several of its dimensions
capture similar emotional and behavioral control aspects
of parenting, albeit at a different level of interaction.
Therefore, we used the MICS and several self-report measures
of parenting to examine the correlation between
their constructs of parenting to those from our newly developed
General Parenting Observational Scale (GPOS).
Methods
Subjects
Families were recruited through advertisements in physicians’
offices and schools in Providence, Rhode Island
and San Diego, California. Families with overweight
(body mass index (BMI) ≥ 85th percentile but < 95th percentile)
or obese (BMI ≥ 95th percentile) children were
recruited to participate in a family-based weight control
intervention for children between the ages of 8 and
12 years old. Eligible families had a child with a BMI ≥
85th percentile but were less than 100% overweight, and
were willing to participate in the 16-week program. Families
were excluded if the child was taking medication
that affected his/her weight or growth, was severely developmentally
delayed, had a major psychiatric illness
that prevented him/her from participating in the group
sessions, or they were moving outside the area during
the timeframe of the study. Families were provided with
informed consent and IRB approval was obtained from
relevant institutions in both cities.
Procedure
Families who contacted the research center completed a
brief phone screen. Those who were eligible were invited
to the center for an orientation session where they
learned more about the weight control intervention.
Families with overweight children were invited to participate
in a 16-week family-based weight control program
based on the Traffic Light Diet [47,48]. Children
and parents met in separate 1-hour weekly group sessions
and learned about behavioral strategies that would
help them make changes to their eating and physical
activity behaviors. A total of 226 parents contacted the
research center. However, 182 families were excluded
because of failure to meet eligibility criteria (19%), lack
of interest or time commitment (54%), did not respond
to phone calls or attend orientation (21%), or failure to
complete pre-intervention assessments (6%). As a result,
only 44 families entered the study. Pre- and postintervention
assessments were completed by both children
and parents. Only pre-intervention assessment data
from families were used in this study.
Each family participated in a video-taped family meal
before and after the intervention. Research assistants
(RA) scheduled a time to go to the family’s home during
one of their regular dinner hours (times ranged from
3:30 to 7:30 P.M.). The RA set up a video camera in
their dining area and turned the camera on when they
were ready to eat. She then left the house and returned
in 30 minutes. Since previous studies have demonstrated
that parent–child behaviors during a meal are similar
across three different tapings [49-51], only one taping
was performed for each family. However, to ensure the
validity of this taping, after the meal parents were asked
to rate: 1) how similar the meal was to their typical meal,
and 2) how similar the parent–child interaction was to
their typical interactions. Scores were rated on a scale of
1 (not very typical) to 4 (very typical). Parents who
scored the meal or the interaction as a 1 or 2 were told
that an additional meal would have to be taped to ensure
the validity of the data being collected. Only 2 families
required an additional taping.
Measures
General Parenting Observational Scale (GPOS)
Based on the Home Observation Coding System [52], a
5-point global rating scale was used to determine the
prevalence of these general parenting dimensions during
the meal. Coding began when all family members
were at the table. Meals averaged 18.1 minutes (S.D.
3.2 minutes) in length (median=20 minutes, interquartile
range = 4 minutes). Therefore tapes were coded for
20 minutes. Each 20-minute videotaped family meal
was divided into 10, two-minute time-periods. At the
end of each 2 minute segment, the tape was stopped
and coders scored the index parent (i.e., the parent who
enrolled and came to the intervention) and child interaction
for each of the 10 parenting dimensions. Scores
ranged from 1 (not present at all) to 5 (present a great
deal). Scores were summed for each dimension with a
possible range of 10 to 50. Meals less than 20 minutes
long were coded and summary scores standardized to
fit a 20 minute coding period.
Two coders were trained on the Global Parenting Observational
Scale. Coders were educated on the different
parenting dimensions included in the scale. Education
included coding of ten training tapes in a group setting
so that coders could learn to differentiate between the
different dimensions. Coders then individually coded
“gold-standard” training tapes until they reached at least
70% reliability on these tapes. When they reached this
goal, they began coding study tapes. Coders met weekly
with the trainer and coded 2 training tapes together to
prevent observer drift. All tapes were reviewed by both
coders and reliability checked. Inter-rater reliability was
determined by performing intraclass correlations between
the summary scores for each of the 10 parenting
dimensions. Intraclass correlations for each dimension
were: warmth/affection = 0.87, support/sensitivity = 0.89,
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 6 of 15
negative affect = 0.91, detachment = 0.81, firm discipline/
structure = 0.87, demands for maturity = 0.91, psychological
control = 0.95, physical control = 0.96, permissiveness =
0.85, and neglect = 0.74. Coders reached consensus on any
discrepant scores and these scores were used for analysis.
Mealtime Family Interaction Coding System (MICS)
The MICS is an observational coding system based on
the McMaster Model of Family Functioning [53,54] and
was adapted from the McMaster Structured Interview of
Family Functioning. The MICS demonstrates moderate
to high correlation with other measures of parent and
family functioning [55] and codes six dimensions of family
functioning: Task accomplishment, Communication,
Affect management, Interpersonal involvement, Behavioral
control, and Roles. Overall Family Functioning is
the seventh and final dimension that is rated and is not
an average of the other six dimensions. Instead, it provides
an overall assessment of the quality of the family’s
interactions and functioning at the meal. Given the
similarity of some of these dimensions with the GPOS
parenting dimensions of warmth/affection, support/sensitivity,
firm discipline/structure, and demands for maturity,
we compared constructs between both measures.
Affect management and interpersonal involvement assess
the emotional aspects of the family meal. Affect
management addresses the appropriateness and intensity
of the emotions expressed at the meal as well as the responsiveness
and sensitivity of these emotional responses
towards other family members. Interpersonal
involvement captures the degree to which family members
show respect, interest, and value in each other’s activities
and thoughts (similar to support and sensitivity
in the GPOS). Behavior control assesses the way in
which the family maintains rules around physical expectations
at the table and social behaviors. It categorizes
the behaviors as chaotic, laissez-faire, rigid, and flexible,
and is similar in part to the parenting styles of permissive,
authoritarian, and authoritative. Families who shift
between different control styles and use more chaotic,
rigid, or laissez-faire methods score lower in this domain.
Task accomplishment also assesses the structure
and organization of the meal and reflects on the parent’s
ability to have control over the meal. Families who display
smooth transitions between tasks and can adequately
handle disruptions score higher in this domain.
Communication rates the verbal interaction of the family,
particularly the rate of exchange of information, the
quality of the communication, and the appropriateness
between different age groups. Finally, roles reflect on the
patterns of behavior of each family member and whether
or not they are able to fulfill expected tasks. Each dimension
is rated on a Likert scale from 1 to 7, with scores of 5
or greater being considered categorically different (healthy)
from those with scores less than 5 (unhealthy).
Coding for the MICS was performed by independent
trained coders who were blind to study hypotheses.
Child measures
Child’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory (CRPBI)
[56] asks children to assess their parent’s parenting behaviors
[57], and can be completed by children aged
eight years and older [58]. It has been used in pediatric
weight control studies [59], as well as adapted to assess
parent involvement and strictness in relation to dietary
[20,21] and smoking behavior [60]. The inventory assesses
three dimensions of parenting: acceptance vs.
rejection, psychological control vs. autonomy, and firm
vs. lax control. The 30 item version (CRPBI-30 [61]),
which is a shortened version of the 108-item scale [62],
was used in this study and includes the top ten items
with the highest correlation within each dimension.
Children rated each item on a 3-point Likert scale ranging
from “like”, “somewhat like”, or “not like” their parent’s
behavior. Children completed this measure for
their mother and father’s parenting behaviors separately.
Factor analysis demonstrated that each of the items
loaded significantly on a single principle axis with 96%,
94%, and 87% of the variance respectively. The alpha
values for Acceptance, Psychological control, and Firm
control have been previously reported as 0.75-0.73, 0.72-
0.63, and 0.65-0.63 respectively [61]. The test-retest correlations
ranged from 0.79-0.89. This inventory has been
reported to have strong discriminative validity [63].
“Getting Along with My Parent” [64] is a 38-item questionnaire
(19 items relating to the mother and 19 items
for the father) that assesses the child’s ratings of the
caregiver’s behaviors. The items map onto 2 dimensions,
warmth/support and hostility. Examples of the warmth/
support items include: “When you and your mother
spend time talking or doing things together, how often
does your mother: let you know she really cares about
you; listens carefully to your point of view; acts supportive
and understanding towards you; helps you do something
that is important to you?” Examples of the hostility
items include: “When you and your mother spend time
talking or doing things together, how often does your
mother: get angry at you; criticize your ideas; shout or
yell because she is mad at you; insult or swear at you?”
Four-point scales were used to assess parent behaviors
from “a lot” to “not at all”. The items have been previously
reported to have an internal consistency of 0.78
for the warmth scale and 0.79 for the hostility scale [65].
Parent measures
Parent Report of Parental Behavior Inventory (PRPBI) is
a 30-item measure that parallels the CRPBI-30 and was
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 7 of 15
used to assess parent’s views of their own parenting behaviors
towards the index child. This measure assesses
the same three dimensions of parenting as the CRPBI,
has the same scoring system, and has been used successfully
in previous studies [66,67].
Raising Children Checklist (RCC) [68] is a simplified
revision of Greenberger’s Raising Children Checklist
[69], a standardized measure of parenting strategies that
was based on Baumrind’s concepts of responsiveness
and disciplinary control. This measure has been used in
NICHD’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development
[70] and was chosen for its brevity and apparent
face validity with Baumrind’s dimensions of parenting.
Three dimensions of parenting are obtained with this
survey – firm (authoritative), harsh (authoritarian), and
lax (permissive) parenting. These dimensions have been
found to differentiate children based on school adjustment,
academic achievement, and behavioral problems
[69]. Cronbach’s alpha for each of these dimensions were
reported as 0.67, 0.75, and 0.73 respectively.
Anthropometrics
Child height and weight were obtained to determine
BMI percentile and BMI z-scores. Weight was measured
in kilograms to the nearest 0.1 kg on a Tanita Digital
Scale (model WB-110A). Weight was measured twice
and the average of the values was used for analysis.
Height was measured using a portable Tanita stadiometer.
Height was recorded to the nearest 0.1 cm for
both trials, and the average of the 2 values used for analysis.
Body mass index (BMI = [kg/m2]) was calculated and
translated to BMI percentiles for age and sex using the
CDC growth charts [71] and to standardized BMI z-scores
(BMI-Z ) [72].
Several sociodemographic variables were included in
this study: parent and child age and gender, parent race/
ethnicity, marital status and educational level. In this
sample, the primary racial/ethnic groups were Caucasian,
Hispanic, and other. Maternal education was dichotomized
into “some college or less” and “college degree or
higher”. Marital status was dichotomized into “married or
living with significant other” and “widowed, divorced, separated
or never married”.
Analysis
Descriptive statistics and correlations were completed using
SAS, version 9.3. Distributions of the GPOS dimensions
were not normally distributed for all dimensions except
warmth/affection and support/sensitivity. As a result, medians
and interquartile ranges were presented. Spearman’s
correlations were used to determine correlations between
the GPOS parenting dimensions and the MICS family functioning
dimensions, child reports of parenting behaviors,
and parent reports of parenting behaviors. Correlations
between parenting dimensions and parent demographics
were also explored. Alpha level of 0.05 was used to determine
significance.
Results
The sample included 44 parent–child dyads. Mean child
age was 10.0 years and two-thirds were female. Mean child
BMI percentile was 98.2. The majority of parents were
mothers with a mean age of 41.4 years. Most children lived
in two parent households and about half of parents had a
college degree or higher (Table 2). There were no significant
differences in demographic characteristics between
those families recruited in Rhode Island and California.
Scores for the observed parenting dimensions ranged
between 10 and 34 (Table 3). Only five dimensions had a
wide range of scores: warmth/affection, support/sensitivity,
negative affect, detachment, and firm discipline/
structure. Of these dimensions, the most commonly
observed behaviors were warmth/affection, support/
sensitivity, and firm discipline/structure. All other parenting
dimensions were not commonly observed during
the videotaped family meals.
Table 2 Child and parent demographics
Variable Percent or Means (S.D.)
(n = 44)
Child characteristics
Sex
Male 34%
Female 66%
Age (years) 10.0 (1.3)
BMI percentile 98.2 (1.3)
BMI z-score 2.2 (0.3)
Parent characteristics
Sex
Male 5%
Female 95%
Race/ethnicity
White 52%
Hispanic 36%
Other 11%
Education
No degree 47%
Bachelor’s degree or higher 53%
Marital status
Married/living with significant other 77%
Widowed/divorced/Separated/never married 23%
Age (years) 41.4 (6.9)
BMI (kg/m2) 30.1 (5.8)
S.D. = Standard deviation.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 8 of 15
Several parenting dimensions were highly correlated
with the family functioning dimensions of the MICS
(Table 4). Families who scored highly in warmth/affection
(GPOS) scored highly in affect management, interpersonal
involvement, and communication (MICS) (r = 0.39, 0.56,
and 0.44, respectively). Support/sensitivity (GPOS) was
also highly correlated with affect management, interpersonal
involvement, and communication (MICS) (r = 0.38,
0.55, and 0.45, respectively). High scores in negative affect
(GPOS) were inversely correlated with affect management,
interpersonal involvement, communication, behavior control
and overall family functioning (MICS). In the behavioral
dimensions, there was an inverse relationship
between firm discipline/structure (GPOS) and the family
functioning dimensions of affect management, behavior
control, task accomplishment, and roles. Higher permissive
scores in the GPOS were also negatively correlated
with these dimensions.
When comparing observed parenting dimensions with
self-report measures of parenting by children, there were
fewer significant correlations. Only child report of
warmth (“Getting along with my parent” survey) was inversely
correlated with detachment (r = −0.41, p < 0.01).
Parent reports of psychological control and firm control
(PRPBI) and harsh parenting (Raising Children Checklist)
were inversely correlated with observed measures of
warmth/affection and support/sensitivity (GPOS). Interestingly,
parents self-reporting higher firm (authoritative)
parenting (Raising Children Checklist) were viewed
as using less firm discipline on the GPOS (r = −0.30).
However self-report of lax behaviors was positively correlated
with firm discipline on the GPOS (r = 0.36).
Similarly, psychological control and firm control (PRPBI)
were both positively correlated with permissive behaviors
on the GPOS.
Parent demographics were correlated with certain parenting
dimensions. Parents with higher BMIs had lower
warmth/affection (r = −0.38, p = 0.02) and support/sensitivity
scores (r = −0.32, p = 0.05). Older parents had higher
warmth/affection (r = 0.33, p = 0.04) and support/sensitivity
scores (r = 0.42, p = 0.01). Parents with higher education
also had higher warmth/affection scores (r = 0.33, p = 0.04).
Discussion
The goal of this study was to develop a General Parenting
Observational Scale that could be used to assess general
parenting dimensions in the context of family meals, and
compare these dimensions to those captured in other
observational and self-report measures of parenting and
family functioning. Parenting dimensions were based on
the four classic parenting styles [27,30] and more recent
dimensions of interest, i.e., psychological control and
structure. The most robust dimensions in the GPOS were
warmth/affection, support/sensitivity, and firm discipline/
structure. The emotional dimensions of warmth/affection
and support/sensitivity were positively associated with the
family functioning dimensions assessing interpersonal involvement,
affect management, and communication. Thus
parents displaying high warmth, affection, and support for
their child on the GPOS were also viewed as having good
communication, effective and appropriate emotional displays,
and being involved with or expressing empathy
and concern for their child. Warmth/affection and support/
sensitivity were also inversely correlated with parent
self-report measures of harsher parenting behaviors.
Thus it appears that the emotional dimensions of parenting
were captured well in the GPOS.
With regards to the behavioral dimensions, firm discipline/
structure in the GPOS was inversely correlated
with affect management as well as behavior control and
task accomplishment in the MICS. While on the surface
this may seem contradictory and questions the validity
of this GPOS parenting dimension, these results may actually
complement each other and provide us with a
more complete picture of what is happening during the
family meal. Parents who have to frequently make comments
to remind children of the rules and provide a
structure for their children so that they comply with
these rules (coded as high discipline and structure on
the GPOS) may appear to have low behavioral control of
the situation on the MICS because of this constant
reminding. Furthermore, they may have had to shift between
several types of control styles to maintain this
order (e.g., chaotic or laissez-faire as defined by the
MICS), thus causing them to score low on the MICS. In
a similar vein, the frequent reminders about rules may
Table 3 Range of observed parenting dimensions in the
General Parenting Observational Scale
Mean (S.D.) Median (IQR) Range
Emotional Dimensions
Warmth and Affection 23.70 (6.49) 24.0 (9.5) 10-34
Support and Sensitivity 23.37 (5.28) 24.44 (6.43) 10-33
Negative Affect 10.99 (3.18) 10.0 (1.0) 10-30
Detachment 10.99 (3.42) 10.0 (0) 10-30
Behavioral Dimensions
Firm discipline/ structure 12.95 (3.64) 12.0 (4.44) 10-29
Demands for maturity 10.52 (0.73) 10.0 (1.0) 10-13
Psychological control 10.09 (0.59) 10.0 (0) 10-14
Physical Control 10.05 (0.34) 10.0 (0) 10-12
Permissive 10.38 (1.14) 10.0 (0) 10-16
Neglect 10.13 (0.63) 10.0 (0) 10-14
Tapes were coded for 20 minutes. Tapes were divided into 10 two-minute
intervals and coded for all 10 parenting dimensions. Summary scores for
each dimension ranged from 10–50.
S.D. = Standard deviation.
IQR = Inter-Quartile Range.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 9 of 15
Table 4 Correlation between General Parenting Observational Scale and other measures of parenting and family functioning
Warmth/
Affection
Support/
Sensitivity
Negative
Affect
Detachment Firm Discipline/
Structure
Maturity
Demands
Psychological
Control
Physical
Control
Permissiveness Neglect
MICS:
Task Accomplishment 0.19 0.15 −0.20 −0.09 −0.31 −0.07 −0.28 −0.28 −0.36 −0.15
0.23 0.34 0.20 0.59 0.04 0.66 0.06 0.06 0.04 0.32
Communication 0.44 0.45 −0.40 −0.13 −0.23 0.16 −0.27 −0.27 −0.20 −0.31
<0.01 <0.01 <0.01 0.39 0.13 0.31 0.08 0.08 0.19 0.05
Affect Management 0.39 0.38 −0.44 −0.31 −0.32 0.04 −0.28 −0.28 −0.41 −0.39
0.01 0.01 <0.01 0.04 <0.03 0.81 0.07 0.07 <0.01 0.01
Interpersonal Involvement 0.56 0.55 −0.42 −0.14 −0.25 0.03 −0.27 −0.27 −0.38 −0.30
<0.001 <0.001 <0.01 0.36 0.11 0.84 0.08 0.08 0.01 0.05
Behavior Control 0.31 0.27 −0.30 −0.24 −0.35 0.07 −0.29 −0.29 −0.47 −0.38
0.05 0.08 0.05 0.12 0.02 0.64 0.07 0.07 0.001 0.01
Roles 0.50 0.56 −0.37 −0.32 −0.24 0.15 −0.29 −0.29 −0.37 −0.22
<0.001 <0.001 0.01 .04 0.12 0.34 0.06 0.06 0.01 0.17
Family Functioning 0.48 0.51 −0.40 −0.26 −0.34 −0.03 −0.27 −0.27 −0.38 −0.30
<0.01 <0.001 <0.01 0.09 0.02 0.85 0.08 0.08 0.01 0.05
Getting along with my
parent:
Warmth −0.25 −0.29 −0.06 −0.41 −0.12 −0.19 −0.21 −0.21 0.09 −0.05
0.12 0.06 0.70 <0.01 0.46 0.24 0.18 0.18 0.58 0.75
Hostility 0.05 0.11 −0.19 −0.26 0.00 0.06 0.01 0.01 −0.002 −0.18
0.75 0.49 0.22 0.10 0.99 0.70 0.93 0.93 0.99 0.27
CRPBI:
Acceptance 0.19 0.05 −0.22 0.13 −0.14 0.08 −0.19 −0.19 −0.23 −0.25
Psychological Control
0.24 0.77 0.17 0.41 0.39 0.61 0.24 0.24 0.14 0.12
−0.15 0.06 −0.11 −0.15 −0.01 −0.22 −0.24 −0.24 −0.04 −0.30
0.35 0.73 0.50 0.37 0.94 0.16 0.13 0.13 0.79 0.06
Firm Control −0.08 −0.00 0.08 −0.09 0.12 −0.14 0.04 0.04 −0.05 0.17
0.62 0.99 0.61 0.57 0.44 0.38 0.83 0.83 0.77 0.30
PRPBI:
Acceptance −0.18 −0.21 0.04 −0.01 0.06 −0.06 −0.20 −0.20 0.06 −0.11
0.26 0.18 0.80 0.96 0.70 0.73 0.21 0.21 0.71 0.49
Psychological Control −0.45 −0.38 0.25 0.28 0.32 0.00 0.27 0.27 0.36 0.16
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 10 of 15
Table 4 Correlation between General Parenting Observational Scale and other measures of parenting and family functioning (Continued)
<0.01 0.01 0.11 0.08 0.04 0.98 0.09 0.09 0.02 0.31
Firm Control −0.52 −0.48 0.19 0.25 0.25 −0.18 0.07 0.07 0.34 0.10
<0.001 0.001 0.22 0.11 0.11 0.27 0.65 0.65 0.03 0.52
Raising Children
Checklist
Harsh −0.30 −0.22 0.02 −0.11 0.05 −0.20 −0.04 −0.04 −0.05 −0.20
0.05 0.16 0.88 0.49 0.73 0.21 0.81 0.81 0.77 0.20
Firm 0.05 0.09 −0.27 −0.15 −0.30 −0.09 −0.24 −0.24 −0.29 −0.29
0.75 0.56 0.09 0.33 0.05 0.56 0.13 0.13 0.07 0.06
Lax 0.11 0.11 0.08 0.27 0.36 0.29 0.01 0.01 0.27 0.18
0.48 0.48 0.60 0.09 0.02 0.07 0.94 0.94 0.08 0.25
Spearman’s correlation was used to examine the correlation between the 10 dimensions of the GPOS and the MICS and several other child- or self-report measures of parenting. “Getting along with my parent” and
the CRPBI are child reports of parenting. The PRPBI and Raising Children Checklist ask parents to report on their parenting. Correlation coefficients (r) and p-values are presented.
MICS = Mealtime Family Interaction Coding System.
CRPBI = Child’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory.
PRPBI = Parent Report of Parental Behavior Inventory.
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 11 of 15
have caused parents to appear as if they were unable to
maintain an organized meal with minimal disruptions,
resulting in low scores for task accomplishment. The
complexity of these family interactions may also explain
the results for the GPOS dimension of permissiveness.
Parents who were permissive on the GPOS could have
had poor behavioral control of the mealtime situation
and be unsuccessful at completing the task of eating a
meal with minimal disruptions. Thus parents who were
permissive would have been categorized as having poor
family functioning on the MICS, as was seen in this analysis.
These results suggest that the parenting dimensions
in the GPOS are related to the concepts captured
by the MICS, but not completely overlapping. Overall,
the GPOS focuses more on parent behaviors while the
MICS takes the whole family and the child’s response to
parent behaviors into account. As a result, the GPOS
views the behavioral aspect of parenting from another
angle, which may potentially complement the results of
the MICS. A previous study noted no significant relationship
between task accomplishment, behavior control
and child BMI z-score [46]. Whether or not the dimensions
of firm discipline/structure and permissiveness
from the GPOS are related to child BMI remains to be
seen. This type of analysis could highlight whether or
not the behavioral aspects of parenting captured by the
GPOS are providing us with additional information that
is not captured in the MICS, thereby providing us with a
more complete picture of the parenting and family dynamics
during mealtimes.
It is interesting to note that the self-report measures
were not as well correlated with the observed parenting
behaviors of the GPOS. It was not surprising to see that
parents who were viewed as warm/affectionate as well as
supportive/sensitive to their child’s needs self-report that
they did not engage in psychologically controlling or
harsh parenting behaviors. However, observed behaviors
of firm discipline, behavioral control, and structure on
the GPOS were not self-reported as such. Instead, these
parents self-reported more lax parenting behaviors (as
measured by the Raising Children’s Checklist). In
addition, observed permissive parenting behaviors were
self-reported by parents as being more psychologically
controlling and firm (PRPBI). When children reported
on their parent’s behaviors, only detachment was inversely
correlated with parent displays of warmth. There
was no correlation between the behavioral dimensions of
parenting as assessed by the GPOS or self-report measures.
Thus, overall it appears that the emotional dimensions
of parenting may be more accurately reported
while behavioral dimensions may be subject to personal
biases or social desirability. While a few studies have
found poor correlations between parent and child reports
of parenting behaviors [66,73], we are unaware of
any study to date that has compared direct observation
of parenting behaviors with parent or child self-report
measures of parenting. The results of our study highlight
the potential difficulty in using self-report measures of
parenting, and suggest that the emotional dimensions of
parenting may be more accurately captured in these
self-report measures than the behavioral dimensions of
parenting.
In our analyses, we also found that parents with higher
education, lower BMI scores, and older age scored
higher on warmth/affection and support/sensitivity. A
few studies using self-report measures of parenting have
found that authoritative parenting is associated with
higher parental SES [17], and parents with higher levels
of education were less likely to use controlling behaviors
like coercion or overprotection [34]. Studies have reported
that both demographic factors (like higher income
and educational attainment [74]) and authoritative
or supportive parenting [4] are associated with lower
risk for obesity. Whether parenting mediates the relationship
between demographic factors and child weight
status has not been investigated. Given the correlation
between certain parenting behaviors and SES/educational
level, this relationship should be clarified and may
provide further evidence for targeting general parenting
in future interventions.
While several of the dimensions captured in the General
Parenting Observational Scale appear to be robust,
there were a few limitations. First, the sample was relatively
small and only conducted on overweight children
and their parents, who were also primarily overweight.
Many children also came from two parent families,
where general parenting behaviors may be different than
in single parent families. Validity of this measure should
be tested in larger samples that include a broader range
of marital statuses, weight categories, racial/ethnic and
cultural groups, and educational backgrounds. Our ability
to only record one family meal per subject may have
also limited the generalizability of our findings. However
other groups have reported that one video recording
may be sufficient [49-51], and meals were re-recorded if
the parent indicated that the interactions or the meal itself
was not typical. Finally, several dimensions were
relatively unobserved in this mealtime setting (psychological
control, physical control, permissiveness, neglect),
and it begs the question as to whether a different parent–
child interaction setting should be used to assess a
broader range of these general parenting behaviors.
Other observational systems, like the Home Observation
for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) [37] and
Dyadic Parent Child Interaction Coding Scheme
(DPICS) [38], have typically been used in play situations.
But as children grow older and we assess parenting behaviors
at this later time, play situations may not be
Rhee et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:49 Page 12 of 15
developmentally appropriate. Given that we are interested
in using this scale to determine the relationship between
general parenting and childhood obesity and other
weight-related behaviors, the mealtime interaction seems
to be an appropriate setting. However, we did not videotape
and code other eating or activity related situations,
like snack time, and the interactions found here may only
be relevant to the meal time situation. Examination of this
tools’ efficacy in other settings should be explored.
Conclusion
There is growing interest in the role of general parenting
behaviors in the development and potential treatment of
childhood obesity. At this time several studies report
that authoritative or supportive parenting behaviors are
associated with lower risk of obesity [4,5] and improved
eating behaviors [20,21]. However, there are still discrepancies
reported in these relationships [6,19] and the use
of self-report measures of parenting may be contributing
to this discrepancy. While there is a role for self-report
measures of parenting, particularly when a child reports
on his/her parent’s behaviors and this is correlated with
his/her developmental outcomes, these measures may
still be limited by difficulties with understanding the selected
concepts or recall bias. Many people also find it
difficult to recognize how their own behaviors impact
and are viewed by others. Therefore, an observational
tool may provide a more objective or standardized
means of measuring parenting. Since there are few
observational assessments of general parenting, we
developed the General Parenting Observational Scale to
assess parent behaviors in a mealtime situation. It appears
that the primary dimensions of warmth/affection,
support/sensitivity, and firm discipline/structure were
robustly captured in this tool. Continued use of this tool
among families with a wider age range of child weights
and demographic variability will help to determine the
versatility of this tool. While observational methods may
be more labor and time-intensive, it offers another standardized
and possibly more objective means of assessing
general parenting. This may result in more homogeneity
in research results, allowing one to determine the true
relationship between general parenting and obesityrelated
behaviors.
Abbreviations
GPOS: General Parenting Observational Scale; MICS: Mealtime Family
Interaction Coding System; BMI: Body mass index; RA: Research assistant;
CRPBI: Child’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory; PRPBI: Parent Report of
Parental Behavior Inventory; RCC: Raising Children Checklist; BMI-Z: BMI
z-score; HOME: Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment;
DPICS: Dyadic Parent Child Interaction Coding Scheme.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Authors’ contributions
KR conceived of and designed the study, obtained funding for the study,
acquired and analysed the data, and drafted the manuscript. SD participated
in the design of the study, analysis of the data, and manuscript revision. EJ
participated in the design of the study, collection of data, and manuscript
revision. KB participated in the collection of data and manuscript revision. RS
participated in the design of the study and manuscript revision. RW
contributed to the design of the study and manuscript revision. All authors
read and approved the final manuscript.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to the staff at the Weight Control and Diabetes Research
Center (RI) and the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research (CA) who
participated in data collection and the families who participated in the study.
This research was supported by grant number K23HD057299 from the
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development awarded to KR.
Author details
1Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, San
Diego, La Jolla, USA. 2Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown
University Medical School, Providence, USA. 3School of Medicine,
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, USA.
4Division of Academic General Pediatrics, Developmental Pediatrics, and
Community Health, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine,
9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0874, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.
Received: 19 August 2014 Accepted: 27 March 2015
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