Factors Influencing Adult Feeding Practices used with Young Children
Adult feeding practices impact young children's health and well-being in a number of ways: supporting a healthy weight (Birch & Fisher, 1998), combating an obesigenic environment, managing portion distortion, managing allergies and food intolerances (Briley & Roberts-Gray, 1999), preventing a negative association with food, and developing a positive relationship with food (Fletcher, Branen, & Lawrence, 1997). With the recognition of adults' impact on children's eating habits, researchers have identified feeding practices that are not supportive of building healthy eating behaviors (Birch, McPhee, Shoba, Steinberg, & Krehbiel, 1987; Bruss, Morris, & Dannison, 2003; Lopez-Dicastillo, Grande, & Callery, 2010). Adults may use negative practices such as controlling the type, amount, order of food eaten by the child, rewarding or punishing with food
(Hoerr, Utech, & Ruth, 2005), or using food to pacify children (Vereechken, Keukelier, & Maes, 2004). In addition, an often expressed challenge by adults concerns picky eating and the frustration that comes with their children's desire for unhealthy foods (Hertzler & Fray, 1999; Lauzon-Guillain, Musher-Eizenman, Leporc, Holub, & Charlese, 2009). Further, adults use different feeding styles according to specific child eating behaviors such as over eating, under eating, and picky eating (Farrow, Galloway, & Fraser, 2009). Many of these feeding practices occur as adults express an inner conflict with trying to please the child while at the same time trying to support the child's health and well-being (Bruss et al., 2003). To better support the use of appropriate feeding practices with young children, factors affecting adult feeding practices need to be understood. The feeding practices
adults use with children last a lifetime and include: shaping children's food preferences and food acceptance patterns, setting the food environment, and influencing children's current weight status (Birch & Davison, 2001; Birch & Fisher, 1998; Fletcher et al., 1997). Using appropriate feeding practices with young children reinforce a child's self-regulation of intake (Johnson, 2000), which is supportive of maintaining a healthy weight and preventing childhood obesity (Birch & Fisher, 1998). The presence of an obesigenic environment, where high calorie and low nutrition dense foods are readily available make feeding young children a greater challenge (Bouchard, 2007; Briley, Roberts-Gray, & Simpson, 1994). To complicate the food environment further, portion distortion is common, with children being offered larger portions and being expected to eat those portions. Knowing the impact of
adult feeding practices on young children's health, a greater understanding of factors influencing those feeding practices is warranted. Knowledge gained on the factors influencing adult feeding practices can guide education to better support and encourage adults' use of appropriate feeding practices, which can result in better health outcomes for young children.