Article

Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 899-909

Parental Feeding Practices and Concerns Related to Child Underweight, Picky Eating, and Using Food to Calm Differ According to Ethnicity/Race, Acculturation, and Income

  • Alexandra EvansAffiliated withMichael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas School of Public Health Email author 
  • , Jennifer Greenberg SethAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Shanna SmithAffiliated withDivision of Statistics & Scientific Computation, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Karol Kaye HarrisAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Jennifer LoyoAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Carol SpauldingAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Mary Van EckAffiliated withTexas Department of State Health Services, Nutrition Services Section
  • , Nell GottliebAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine differences in parental feeding practices according to ethnicity/race, household income, parent education level, acculturation (for Hispanic participants only), and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program among parents living in a southern state in the United States. For this cross-sectional study, parents of children ages 1–5 years living throughout Texas were recruited through random digit dialing with screening questions during Fall 2006. Eligible parents who agreed to participate completed the Preschooler Feeding Questionnaire (PFQ) and a demographic questionnaire over the phone in either English or Spanish. The PFQ included five subscales: child overeating concerns, child underweight concerns, difficulty with picky eating, using food to calm, and pushing child to eat. Demographic questions assessed ethnicity/race, household income, parent education level, acculturation, and WIC participation. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), with the demographic variables as predictors, was used to predict the five PFQ subscales. Complete data were obtained from 721 parents, 50% of whom were Hispanic. Significant differences for the PFQ subscales were noted for ethnicity/race, acculturation, and income level. Spanish-speaking Hispanic participants were significantly more worried about their child being underweight than English-speaking Hispanic participants. High-income non-WIC respondents were more likely to report that they have difficulty with picky eaters compared to WIC respondents. Spanish-speaking Hispanics and Black respondents were more likely than English-speaking Hispanics to use food to calm the child. Health practitioners need to be aware of differences in parental feeding practices and concerns among parents of diverse demographic backgrounds. Results from this study can be used to tailor health programs that promote healthy feeding practices among parents.

Keywords

Parental feeding practices Low-income Acculturation Preschool-aged children