Poster Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting

A qualitative study of maternal views on preschoolers’ dietary self-regulation and feeding strategies (#169)

Heidi J Bergmeier , Helen Skouteris

Research shows comparisons between reported and observed maternal feeding practices have not always been associated1-4.  Whilst it appears that maternal reports may not reflect feeding practices performed during mealtimes, it is also possible mothers may use covert methods to guide the socialization of their children’s eating and weight. This qualitative study aimed to explore mothers’ views on their preschool children’s ability to self-regulate their eating and feeding strategies used, in order to provide further context to positive feeding practices and beliefs that may not be captured by quantitative or observational methods alone.  Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 23 mothers of preschool-aged children, who had previously completed feeding questionnaires and participated in two home-based mealtime observations set approximately 12-months apart. Data were recorded, transcribed and themes extracted using grounded theory. Mothers who recognized how growth spurts, illness and times of the day meals were served influenced fluctuations in children’s appetite reported feeling more confident in their child’s ability to self-regulate their food intake and were less likely to use controlling feeding practices. Mothers who believed their child needed help regulating their intake of novelty food (e.g., sweets; ice-cream) used health reasoning and limit setting strategies. Covert strategies used to foster positive mealtime interactions and healthy eating included involving children in the preparation of food, avoiding engaging in battles over food, only offering healthy food choices and keeping less nutritious food out of sight. Findings indicate that mothers may largely guide preschoolers’ eating by controlling the family food environment, rather than directly pressurizing or restricting their child’s eating. This result may help to explain why previous assessments of reported and observed maternal feeding practices for this sample were not significantly associated.

  1. Bergmeier, H., Skouteris, H., Haines, J., Hooley, M., Haycraft, E. (2014). Prospective associations between reported and observed maternal controlling feeding practices: Relationships with child eating and weight during preschool years. Manuscript in preparation.
  2. Farrow, C., Blissett, J., & Haycraft, E. (2011). Does child weight influence how mothers report their feeding practices? International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 6, 306-313.
  3. Haycraft, E., & Blissett, J. (2008). Maternal and paternal controlling feeding practices: Reliability and relationships with BMI. Obesity, 16, 1552-1558.
  4. Lewis, M., & Worobey, J. Mothers and toddlers lunch together. The relation between observed and reported behavior. Appetite 2011; 56: 732-736.