Examining parents’ experiences and challenges of feeding preschool children with avid eating behaviour


Avid eating behaviours, including greater responsiveness to food cues and emotional over-eating, have been linked to child overweight and obesity. Parental feeding practices are modifiable components of a child’s food environment and may be key levers for behaviour change in tailored interventions to support parents of children with avid eating behaviour. However, there is a lack of research examining parents’ experiences in this context. This study aimed to explore parents’ experiences of feeding children with avid eating behaviour and to understand any challenges experienced in this context. Semi-structured interviews with parents (N=15) of a preschool child (3-5 years) identified as having an avid eating behaviour profile explored how children’s avid eating manifests, the parental feeding practices used to manage avid eating, and the perceived effectiveness of these strategies. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Four core themes were generated. Theme one, ‘Have they got worms? Children’s insatiable hunger’, captures parents’ interpretation of the complex ways in which avid eating behaviour manifests. Theme two, ‘Parenthood as a duty’, illustrates how parents’ perceived responsibilities shape their feeding practices. Theme three, ‘Lifelong habits’, captures parents’ use of responsive feeding practices to support children’s healthy relationship with food. Theme four, ‘Picking battles’, captures the structure- and coercive-based feeding strategies commonly used to manage children’s avid eating. This novel study provides an in-depth understanding of the complex ways that children’s avid eating behaviour manifests, and the strategic and creative parental feeding practices used to manage these behaviours. Such findings are valuable for informing the development of future support resources for parents/caregivers to help their children with avid eating behaviours to develop a healthy relationship with food.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2024.107372
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Funding Information: This research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant ref.: ES/v014153/1).
Additional Information: Copyright © 2024, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Avid eating,Food approach,Children's eating behaviour,Parental feeding practices
Publication ISSN: 1095-8304
Last Modified: 30 May 2024 07:36
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2024 15:09
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://linking ... 195666324001739 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2024-07-01
Published Online Date: 2024-04-22
Accepted Date: 2024-04-21
Authors: Edwards, Katie L. (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-1076-8382)
Blissett, Jacqueline (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-0275-6413)
Croker, Helen
Farrow, Claire (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-3745-6610)
Herle, Moritz
Kininmonth, Alice
Llewellyn, Clare
Pickard, Abigail (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-1708-500X)
Haycraft, Emma



Version: Accepted Version

Access Restriction: Restricted to Repository staff only

License: Creative Commons Attribution


Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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