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Strategies used by parents to influence their children's food preferences.
journal contributionposted on 01.07.2015, 00:00 authored by Georgie RussellGeorgie Russell, Tony WorsleyTony Worsley, Karen CampbellKaren Campbell
BACKGROUND: Food preferences are important determinants of children's food intakes. Parental feeding behaviours have a significant influence on the development of children's food preferences. The aim of the present study was to describe the ways in which parents attempt to influence their children's food preferences. METHODS: Parents of 2-5 year old children participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews, which were transcribed and content analysed using a thematic coding manual. The parents described the ways in which they tried to influence the foods their child liked and disliked. Participants (N = 57) were separated into three separate groups based on an a priori study measuring food preferences and food neophobia: those who either had children with healthy food preferences (i.e. closely aligned with dietary guidelines) (N = 20), or unhealthy food preferences (i.e. not closely aligned with dietary guidelines) (N = 18), or high levels of food neophobia (N = 19). RESULTS: The parents used many, diverse behaviours to influence their child's food preferences. Some of these behaviours were likely to be effective in promoting healthy food preferences in children (e.g. parental modelling, food exposure), whilst others were likely to be ineffective (e.g. forcing consumption, restricting food access). Parents of children with healthy food preferences appeared to use more of the feeding behaviours predicted to promote healthy preferences than parents in the other two groups. Parents of children with unhealthy food preferences and those of food neophobic children appeared to rely more on ineffective behaviours. CONCLUSION: Parents used a mixture of effective and ineffective behaviours, with parents of children with unhealthy food preferences or high food neophobia using fewer behaviours known to be effective. Interventions aimed at influencing parental feeding behaviours should include those behaviours targeted at children's food preferences.