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Influence of parenting style and environment on perception of picky eating behaviors in toddlers

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Title: Influence of parenting style and environment on perception of picky eating behaviors in toddlers
Author(s): Macinnes, Amy
Advisor(s): Lee, Soo-Yeun; Donovan, Sharon M.
Department / Program: Nutritional Sciences
Discipline: Nutritional Sciences
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.S.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): PICKY EATING TODDLERS MEALTIME BEHAVIOR PARENTING STYLES FAMILY MEALTIME MEALTIME ENVIRONMENT
Abstract: A common problem parents experience with their toddlers during mealtime is picky eating. While no consistent definition exists within research, a picky eater typically consumes a limited variety of foods, avoids familiar foods, rejects new foods, and eats the same foods repeatedly. Many factors influence the development of picky behaviors including parents, who play a crucial role in their child’s dietary preferences through what they serve and how they feed their child. Approaches towards child feeding differ among parenting styles and may positively or negatively affect the development of picky eating. The purpose of this research was to further elucidate the relationship that exists between parents and picky eaters. There were three objectives: 1) measure the relationship among parenting styles, parent mealtime strategies, and picky eating in toddlers, 2) objectively categorize picky eaters through observations in a childcare mealtime setting, and 3) assess whether variations in environment alter child mealtime behaviors. Fulfillment of these objectives was achieved through multiple phases of research. First, the availability of 140 foods in the home was compared to the dietary variety of children considered to be a picky eater (PE, n=83) and a non-picky eater (NPE, n=88). Parents of PEs served similar foods as parents of NPEs, indicating that more factors besides food availability influence pickiness in children. Exploratory qualitative research was then conducted to assess parental perception of picky eating according to parenting style. Eight focus groups were conducted with parents who had children age 2-5 years: four authoritative (n=26), two authoritarian (n=12), and two permissive (n=14). The three parenting styles had differing approaches to mealtime and authoritative parents stood out as promoting feeding strategies that encourage positive behavior. Authoritarian and permissive parents did not mention positive strategies, such as modeling proper intake, but did discuss using the negative strategy of rewards for eating. These findings were further confirmed through parent surveys about mealtime and parenting style. Parents (n=525) of toddlers aged 2-5 completed the Mealtime Assessment Survey (MAS) about the frequency of child mealtime behaviors and parent mealtime strategies, as well as the Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ) to assess parenting style. Spearman’s correlation analysis revealed that authoritative parenting was positively correlated to NPE child behaviors and strategies that promote good eating patterns in children. In contrast, authoritarian and permissive parenting styles were positively correlated to PE child behaviors and strategies that may have harmful effects on child mealtime behaviors. The Toddler Mealtime Behavior Study (TMBS) was the final phase of research and was conducted using 35 parent-toddler pairs. Parents completed the MAS and PSDQ and results showing similar correlations between parenting style and child mealtime behaviors seen with the larger data set. Teachers (n=15) who worked with the children in the childcare setting also completed a modified version of the MAS and their results were compared to the parent survey. Parents reported a higher prevalence of behaviors associated with picky eating at home than did childcare teachers, indicating a shift in child mealtime behavior between environments. Additionally in the TMBS, children were observed during mealtimes and objectively classified as PE or NPE based on their dietary variety and behaviors. Researcher observations were compared to parents’ and teachers’ PE and NPE assignments and there was no apparent trend in the classifications. When measuring pickiness in toddlers, it is difficult to separate picky eating, non-food related mealtime problems, and general behavior challenges. Also, the perceptions of PE status fluctuate based on parenting and environmental influences. Further work is needed in observing parent and child interactions in the home to assess the possible benefits of authoritative parenting strategies on mealtime and confirm environmental differences in child behavior.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34531
Rights Information: COPYRIGHT 2012 AMY K. MACINNES
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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