Sociocultural and Environmental Influences on Brazilian Immigrant Mothers’ Beliefs and Practices Related to Child Feeding and Weight Status

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Background Length of residence in the United States (US), changes in dietary and physical activity behaviors, and economic and social barriers contribute to high childhood obesity rates among children from immigrant families in the US. Brazilians comprise a fast-growing immigrant population group in the US, yet little research has focused on health issues affecting Brazilian children in immigrant families. Understanding sociocultural and environmental influences on parents’ beliefs and practices related to child feeding and weight status is essential to altering obesity trends in this group. Methods Qualitative study consisting of five focus groups with a convenience sample of 29 Brazilian immigrant mothers. Results Analyses revealed that the sociocultural and environment transitions faced by Brazilian immigrant mothers’ influence their beliefs and practices related to child feeding and weight status. Additionally, acculturation emerged as a factor affecting mothers’ feeding practices and their children’s eating habits, with mothers preferring Brazilian food environments and that their children preferring American food environments. Mothers viewed themselves as being responsible for promoting and maintaining their children’s healthy eating and feeding behaviors, but changes in their social and cultural environments due to immigration and the pressures and demands of raising a family in a new country make this difficult. Conclusions Health promotion interventions to improve healthful eating and feeding practices of Brazilian children in immigrant families must account for social and cultural changes and daily life demands due to immigration as well as potential variation in the levels of acculturation between mothers and their children.

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Maternal and Child Health Journal