The Association of Maternal Perceived Stress with Changes in Their Children's Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010) Scores over Time

Sydney G. O'Connor, Jimi Huh, Susan M. Schembre, Nanette V. Lopez, Genevieve F. Dunton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Few studies have examined the role of maternal stress in relation to their children's dietary quality and its trajectory over time. Purpose: The objective of this longitudinal study was to examine the effect of baseline maternal stress on the change in their 8-to 12-year-old children's dietary quality over 1 year. Methods: Mother-child dyads (N = 189) from the greater Los Angeles area participating in the Mothers' and their Children's Health (MATCH) study in 2014-2016 completed assessments at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. At baseline, mothers (mean age = 41.0 years, standard deviation [SD] = 6.1) completed the 10-item Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). At each time point, children (51% female, mean age = 9.6 years, SD = 0.9) completed up to two 24-hr dietary recalls. Dietary data were used to calculate each child's Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) score at each time point. Multilevel models examined the effect of time on the patterns of change in children's HEI-2010 scores over 1 year and the cross-level interaction between baseline maternal PSS score and time on the change in children's HEI-2010 scores. Results: On average, there was no significant linear change in child HEI-2010 across 1 year (b =-0.410, p =. 586). Controlling for covariates, the rate of change in HEI-2010 differed depending on mother's baseline PSS (i.e., significant cross-level interaction effect) (b =-0.235, p =. 035). Conclusions: Our results showed that higher-than-average maternal stress at baseline was associated with greater decline in children's dietary quality over 1 year. Family-based dietary interventions that incorporate maternal stress reduction could have positive effects on children's dietary quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-885
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Apr 5 2019


  • Dietary intake
  • Healthy Eating Index
  • Maternal child health
  • Maternal stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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