Investigating Within-Day and Longitudinal Effects of Maternal Stress on Children's Physical Activity, Dietary Intake, and Body Composition: Protocol for the MATCH Study

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Contemporary Clinical Trials

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Parental stress is an understudied factor that may compromise parenting practices related to children's dietary intake, physical activity, and obesity. However, studies examining these associations have been subject to methodological limitations, including cross-sectional designs, retrospective measures, a lack of stress biomarkers, and the tendency to overlook momentary etiologic processes occurring within each day. This paper describes the recruitment, data collection, and data analytic protocols for the MATCH (Mothers And Their Children's Health) study, a longitudinal investigation using novel real-time data capture strategies to examine within-day associations of maternal stress with children's physical activity and dietary intake, and how these effects contribute to children's obesity risk. In the MATCH study, 200 mothers and their 8 to 12 year-old children are participating in 6 semi-annual assessment waves across 3 years. At each wave, measures for mother–child dyads include: (a) real-time Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) of self-reported daily psychosocial stressors (e.g., work at a job, family demands), feeling stressed, perceived stress, parenting practices, dietary intake, and physical activity with time and location stamps; (b) diurnal salivary cortisol patterns, accelerometer-monitored physical activity, and 24-hour dietary recalls; (c) retrospective questionnaires of sociodemographic, cultural, family, and neighborhood covariates; and (d) height, weight, and waist circumference. Putative within-day and longitudinal effects of maternal stress on children's dietary intake, physical activity, and body composition will be tested through multilevel modeling and latent growth curve models, respectively. The results will inform interventions that help mothers reduce the negative effects of stress on weight-related parenting practices and children's obesity risk.