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TITLE: Problematic Child Mealtime Behavior and Caregiver Mobile Phone Use

BACKGROUND Problematic mealtime behaviors (PMB) (externalizing behavior at mealtime) have been seen anthropologically when adult caregivers are absorbed in their mobile phones. Parents with mobile phone problematic use (MPPU) are more likely to be absorbed in a mobile device. Use of mobile devices interrupts personal interactions which may cause children to engage in more externalizing behavior to gain attention of the caregiver. MPPU may also be seen among parents attempting to be distracted from a child’s problematic behaviors. Neither the correlation of MPPU to PMB, nor the frequency of PMB to perceived impairment of problem behavior have been quantitatively studied.

OBJECTIVE Evaluate correlation of caregiver MPPU and child PMB to improve understanding of the possible implications of caregiver MPPU

METHODS Participants included caregivers of children ages 2-8 years being seen in a pediatric hospital clinic. Participants completed a survey on an iPad via REDCAP. The survey included demographics (caregiver/child age, gender, race/ethnicity; child BMI; caregiver level of education, a validated measure for caregiver MPPU (Mobile Phone Problematic Use Scale; MMPUS) and a validated measure for perception of child PMB (Meals in our Household; MIOH). MIOH includes frequency of PMB and perceived impairment from PMB. Measures are continuous variables. Spearman correlation was used for the studied variables and possible confounding variables. Significant confounding variables were evaluated in a regression model.

RESULTS 100 caregivers (mean age 32.9 years, 65% white, 20% ≤ high school completion) participated. Correlation of MIOH problematic behavior total with MMPUS was significant (p=.004, r=0.289). MIOH perceived impairment from PMB had stronger correlation with MMPU (p=<.001, r=.333). Significantly correlated caregiver variables with MPPU include younger age (p=.017, r=-0.241) and gender F>M (p=.005). No significant caregiver variables noted for PMB. Younger child age was significantly correlated with PMB (p=.007, r=-.274). No significant differences in child variables for MPPU. Significant variables were evaluated in regression a model, and MPPU and PMB remained significant.

CONCLUSION Correlation was found between MPPU and PMB. Correlation was stronger when measure of perceived impairment was evaluated. This suggests that caregivers with increased MPPU perceive behavior as more problematic. Improving the understanding of the negative correlation of caregiver MPPU with PMB necessitates pediatricians facilitating conversations with caregivers about this relationship and strategies to ameliorate MPPU during mealtime.

Publication Date



Behavioral Medicine | Pediatrics

When and Where Presented

Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada, May 2018

Problematic Child Mealtime Behavior and Caregiver Mobile Phone Use