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Keywords:

  • childhood;
  • inactivity;
  • energy intake;
  • family environment;
  • path analysis

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine whether television viewing (TVV) provides a context for patterns of snacking fostering overweight in young girls from overweight and non-overweight families.

Research Methods and Procedures: Participants were 173 non-Hispanic white girls and their parents from central Pennsylvania, assessed longitudinally when girls were 5, 7, and 9 years old. Path analysis was used to test patterns of relationships among girls’ TVV, snacking while watching television, snacking frequency, fat intake from energy-dense snack food, and girls’ increase in body mass index (BMI) from age 5 to 9.

Results: In both overweight and non-overweight families, girls who watched more television consumed more snacks in front of the television. In families where neither parent was overweight, television viewing was the only significant predictor of girls’ increase in BMI. In families where one or both parents were overweight, girls who watched more television snacked more frequently, and girls who snacked more frequently had higher intakes of fat from energy-dense snacks, which predicted their increase in BMI from age 5 to 9. TVV did not directly predict girls’ increase in BMI in girls from overweight families.

Discussion: The results of this study support and extend previous findings that have shown that excessive television viewing and snacking patterns are risk factors for the development of overweight in children; however, patterns of relationships may differ based on parental weight status. For overweight families, TVV may provide a context for excessive snack consumption, in addition to inactivity.