Parental feeding behavior in relation to children's tasting behavior: An observational study
Abstract Children's eating habits are shaped in part by parental feeding practices. While maladaptive practices have already received a lot of research attention, the effects of adaptive strategies, especially in elementary school aged children of different weight status, are less examined. This study examines how parents (1) model and (2) encourage their child to taste an unknown food. Thereby, attention is paid to the distinction between encouraging what (i.e. adaptive type of encouragement) and the amount (i.e. maladaptive type of encouragement) children eat/drink. Twenty-five families with a child with overweight and 30 families with a child of healthy weight (7–13 years) participated in a taste task. Both the child's tasting behavior and the parents' modelling and encouragement behavior were observed and related to the child's age and weight status. As 94.3% of the children tasted the unknown food, weight status differences between tasters and non-tasters could not be investigated. Only 26.9% of the parents used modelling to enhance tasting behavior; this was unrelated to age and weight status. 77.4% of the parents encouraged their children to taste ( encouragement of what children eat/drink ), and this was significantly more prevalent in parents of younger children and of healthy-weight children. 21.1% of the parents also encouraged their children to finish the juice (e ncouragement of amount children eat/drink ) and this was also more prevalent in parents of the healthy-weight group. These results evidenced that parental modelling is not often used to enhance tasting behavior in children. In contrast, parental encouragement was frequently observed, especially in parents of younger children and of healthy-weight children. Encouragement, however, seems difficult to measure and more research on adaptive parental encouragement is needed.
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