Concern Explaining Nonresponsive Feeding: A Study of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Response to Their Child's Fussy Eating

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To examine the role of parent concern in explaining nonresponsive feeding practices in response to child fussy eating in socioeconomically disadvantaged families.


Mediation analysis of cross-sectional survey data.


Socioeconomically disadvantaged urban community in Queensland, Australia.


Cohabiting mother–father pairs (n = 208) with children aged 2–5 years.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Two validated measures of nonresponsive feeding: persuasive feeding and reward for eating.


Mediation analysis tested concern as a mediator of the relationship between child food fussiness (independent variable) and parent nonresponsive feeding practices (dependent variables), adjusted for significant covariates and modeled separately for mothers and fathers.


Maternal concern fully mediated the relationship between child food fussiness and persuasive feeding (indirect effect: B [SE] = 0.10 [0.05]; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.01–0.20). Concern also fully mediated the relationship between child food fussiness and reward for eating for mothers (indirect effect: B [SE] = 0.17 [0.07]; CI, 0.04–0.31) and fathers (indirect effect: B [SE] = 0.14 [0.05]; CI, 0.04–0.24)

Conclusions and Implications

Concern for fussy eating behaviors may explain mothers’ and fathers’ nonresponsive feeding practices. In addition to providing education and behavioral support, health professionals working with socioeconomically disadvantaged families can incorporate strategies that aim to alleviate parents’ concerns about fussy eating.

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