Mothers' perceptions of physical activity habits and feeding patterns between siblings with and without Down syndrome




Featherston, Kelly Allums

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Texas Woman's University


Children with Down syndrome are disproportionately obese compared to the general population and their siblings; however, a clear understanding of the familial aggregation of influential factors (i.e., physical activity habits, weight concerns, child feeding patterns, and mothers' eating behaviors) have yet to be investigated between siblings with and without Down syndrome. The purpose of this study was twofold. First, to investigate the relationship between mothers' physical activity levels, past eating behaviors, and child feeding practices on the physical activity levels and weight concerns among their children with and without Down syndrome. Second, to further explore these practices between siblings and investigate how having a child with Down syndrome may impact these practices and the family.

Mothers who have children with and without Down syndrome were recruited to participate in electronic surveys (n = 51), interviews (n = 3), and focus groups (n = 6). Correlation analyses were used to examine the relationship between physical activity levels, weight concerns, child feeding practices, and parents' eating behaviors. Qualitative data were used to further explore these topics; data were transcribed and then analyzed using thematic analysis. The physical activity habits of siblings with and without Down syndrome were associated with parents' habits and similar between siblings. Mothers' physical activity habits and past eating behaviors were not associated with child weight concerns, but were positively associated with some child feeding practices. Mothers appeared to be more concerned about the weight of their children with Down syndrome and more likely to impose certain feeding practices based on that concern; however, concerns stemmed from weight rather than presence of Down syndrome. Quality time as a family was also considered important and this time could be spent being physically active or encouraging health eating habits. The familial aggregation of physical activity habits and eating patterns between siblings with and without Down syndrome must continue to be explored.



Social sciences, Health and environmental sciences, Education, Down syndrome, Family connectedness, Feeding practices, Obesity, Physical activity