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Associations between food parenting practices and dietary intake among children and adolescents

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Title: Associations between food parenting practices and dietary intake among children and adolescents
Author: Walton, Kathryn
Department: Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Program: Applied Nutrition
Advisor: Haines, Jess
Abstract: Food parenting practices influence child and adolescent nutrition. However, existing research has produced equivocal results, likely due to two key limitations: reliance on parent-report and failing to consider the context within which feeding occurs. Parental report data is subject to error and bias, and family functioning may influence how feeding is experienced by the child/adolescent. Further, there is little understanding of how family meal routines are established and why some families eat together while others do not. This thesis includes four papers that aim to address these limitations. Paper one explores cross-sectional associations between family dinner frequency, a structured food parenting practice, and dietary intake (n = 2 728 youth), while exploring whether family functioning moderates or confounds the association. Regardless of level of family functioning, more frequent family dinners were associated with improved diet quality for youth. Paper two explores the role of family functioning in the association between observed mothers’ and fathers’ food parenting practices and children’s nutrition risk (n=73 families with preschoolers). Mothers’, but not fathers’, food parenting practices were associated with their children’s nutrition risk. Family functioning did not moderate or confound these associations. Paper three qualitatively explores how family meal routines are established (n=20 families with preschoolers). Families approach family meals from one of three overarching orientations: meals for togetherness, nutrition messaging, or necessity. These orientations were influenced by parents’ early life experiences and major life transitions. Differences in the messages parents share about food and eating and challenges they experience with mealtimes were observed across the orientations. Paper four comments on the future of research exploring food parenting practices. We argue that the current conceptualization of picky eating defines acts of resistance or expressions of preference by a child as deviant behaviour. A reconceptualization of picky eating is presented with suggestions for future research methods to explore food parenting and child eating habits bi-directionally. Findings from this thesis increase our understanding of the impact of food parenting practices on child and adolescent dietary intake and how family meal routines are established. Results will help improve family-based nutrition interventions and pediatric/adolescent nutrition care in Canada.
Date: 2018-11
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