Parents of preschoolers use multiple strategies to feed their children: Findings from an observational video pilot study

K. A. Loth, Z. Ji, N. Kohli, J. O. Fisher, J. A. Fulkerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study leveraged observational data collection methods to fill gaps in our understanding of parent approach to feeding as well as child responses to various parental approaches. Specifically, the study aimed to: 1) characterize the broad range of food parenting practices used by parents of preschoolers during shared mealtimes at home, including differences by child gender, and 2) describe child responses to specific parent feeding practices. Forty parent-child dyads participated by recording two in-home shared meals. Meals were coded using a behavioral coding scheme that coded the occurrence of 11 distinct food parenting practices (e.g. indirect and direct commands, praise, bribes) and eight child responses (e.g., eat, refuse, cry/whine) to food parenting practices. Results revealed that parents engaged in a broad range of food parenting practices at meals. On average, parents in our sample used 10.51 (SD 7.83; Range 0–30) total food parenting practices per mealtime with a mean use of 3.38 (SD 1.67; Range 0–8) unique food parenting practices per mealtime. Use of indirect and direct commands to eat were most common; direct and indirect commands were used by 97.5% (n = 39) and 87.5% (n = 35) of parents at meals, respectively. No statistically significant differences were observed by child gender. No one specific feeding practice consistently yielded compliance or refusal to eat from the child, instead child responses were often mixed (e.g., compliance followed by refusal and/or refusal followed by compliance). However, use of praise to prompt eating was the practice that most often resulted in child compliance; 80.8% of children complied following parent's use of praise as a prompt to eat. Findings deepen our understanding of the types and frequency of food parenting practices used by parents of preschoolers during meals eaten at home and illuminate child responses to specific food parenting practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106615
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by the University of Minnesota Obesity Consortium. Katie Loth and Ziyu Ji's time on this project was supported by the University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award: UL1TR002494 ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Funders did not play a role in the study design, data collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, nor in the writing of the report or the decision to submit this article for publication. We would also like to acknowledge the hard work of study co-investigator Lisa Harnack for her role in the conceptualization of the study design and coding protocol, as well as study coordinators Kayci Rush and LeeAnn Woodrum-Oakley for their role in participant recruitment, data collection and thematic coding of video observations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Journal Article


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