A Qualitative Exploration Into the Parent–Child Feeding Relationship: How Parents of Preschoolers Divide the Responsibilities of Feeding With Their Children

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Abstract

Objective

To explore the extent to which parents divide responsibilities of feeding (what, when, where, how much, and whether) with their children and the factors that influence parents' approach to feeding.

Design

Individual interviews.

Participants

Parents (n = 40) of preschoolers.

Phenomenon of Interest

Division of feeding responsibilities; motivation for feeding approach; challenges to feeding.

Analysis

Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using deductive and inductive content analysis.

Results

Parent's approaches to feeding varied widely. A few parents followed the Division of Responsibility approach closely. Instead, many parents gave their child more than the recommended amount of influence over what foods were served and offered children less than the recommended amount of autonomy over the whether and how much of eating. Meals and snacks were approached differently; parents exhibited less control over the timing of snacks as well as the types and amounts of foods eaten during snacks, compared with the control exhibited during meals.

Conclusions and Implications

These data support future research to understand the impact of this framework on child health outcomes when it is adhered to on all eating occasions, including snacks. Collaboration by researchers and clinicians to explore alternative frameworks that encourage parents to provide the structure and autonomy support may enhance positive outcomes in children.

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