Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Maternal Mental Representations of the Child and Mobile Phone Use During Parent-Child Mealtimes

Radesky, Jenny, MD*; Leung, Christy, PhD; Appugliese, Danielle, MPH; Miller, Alison L., PhD†,§; Lumeng, Julie C., MD*,†; Rosenblum, Katherine L., PhD†,‖

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: May 2018 - Volume 39 - Issue 4 - p 310–317
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000556
Original Articles
Watch video abstract

Objective: Qualities of the parent-child relationship have not been explored as predictors of parent mobile device use during parent-child activities.

Methods: In 195 mother-child dyads enrolled in an ongoing cohort study, maternal mental representations of their child (ability to reflect on their child's characteristics, emotional state, and their parenting role) were evaluated through the Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI), a validated semistructured interview. WMCI scale scores were examined as predictors of active maternal mobile device use during parent-child eating encounters (videotaped home mealtimes and a structured laboratory-based protocol) in multivariate logistic regression models.

Results: Children were aged 5.9 years (SD: 0.7), mothers were aged 31.5 years (SD: 7.4), and 73.3% of mothers were of white non-Hispanic race/ethnicity. During the family mealtime, 47 (24.1%) mothers actively used a mobile device at least once, whereas during the structured eating protocol, 44 (22.6%) mothers used a device. Controlling for maternal race/ethnicity, education level, and child's sex, WMCI subscales were associated with device use during home mealtimes (higher Child Difficulty) and the eating protocol (higher Child Difficulty and lower Richness of Perceptions and Caregiving Sensitivity).

Conclusion: Maternal mental representations of their child were significantly associated with using mobile devices during eating encounters. More research studies are needed to understand directionality and longer-term associations between mobile device use and parent-child relationship characteristics.

*Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;

Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI;

Appugliese Professional Advisors, LLC, North Easton, MA;

§Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and

Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Address for reprints: Jenny Radesky, MD, Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School, 300 N Ingalls St, Ste 1107, Ann Arbor, MI 48108;

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Research Support: 5R01HD061356 (PI: J. C. Lumeng).

See the Video Abstract at

Received October 09, 2017

Accepted January 02, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.