Qualitative Analysis of Dietary Behaviors in Picture Book Fiction for 4- to 8-Year-Olds

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Abstract

Objective:

Picture books may facilitate parents' efforts to decrease pickiness and other undesirable food habits in children. This study conducted a content analysis of dietary behaviors and feeding strategies featured in fictional picture books compared with those discussed in the research literature.

Design:

Several databases were searched for fictional picture books about dietary behavior, published between 2000 and 2016, accessible in the US, available in print format, and designated for 4- to 8-year-olds.

Phenomenon of Interest:

Messages about dietary behavior in picture book fiction.

Analysis:

Stories were systematically coded using holistic, data-driven, and evaluation coding methods. The final set of codes was examined for themes and patterns.

Results:

Of the 104 books, 50% featured a specific eating behavior, 21% lifestyle/eating patterns, 20% food-related sensations and emotions, and 9% table manners.

Conclusions and Implications:

Books about dietary behaviors are abundant but the topic coverage is unbalanced. Problem behaviors portrayed in books overlap those discussed in the research literature. However, problem-solving strategies and actions do not align with those endorsed by nutrition professionals. Messages vary in their complexity (in terms of their plot and/or language), ranging from clear and direct to vague, sophisticated, unresolved, conflicting, or controversial. Recommendations for practitioners are discussed.

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