Harris, H. A., Staton, S., Morawska, A., Gallegos, D., Oakes, C., & Thorpe, K. (2019). A comparison of maternal feeding responses to child fussy eating in low-income food secure and food insecure households.
Holly A. Harris, Sally Staton, Alina Morawska, Danielle Gallegos, Candice Oakes and Karen Thorpe
Children learn to like a wide variety of healthy foods through exposure in their early feeding environment. While some children may reject foods during this learning process, parents may perceive persistent refusal as ‘fussy’ or ‘picky’ eating. Low-income parents may provide fussy children with a narrow range of foods that they will like and accept to avoid food and economic waste; inadvertently limiting children’s exposure to a variety of healthy foods. This ‘risk aversion’ to food rejection may be particularly salient in food insecure households where resources are further constrained. We aimed to examine if food insecurity modifies the relationship between child fussy eating and parents’ food provision and feeding with respect to exposure to a variety of healthy foods. Australian mothers residing in a low-income community (N = 260) completed a cross-sectional survey on their preschool-aged child’s ‘food fussiness’, household food insecurity and food exposure practices. Food exposure practices included the home availability of fruit and vegetables, and children’s tasting of a variety of fruit and vegetables (food provision); and whether parents prepared alternative meals for their child (feeding). Mothers reporting food insecurity (11%) were less likely to have fruit frequently available in the home compared to mothers reporting food security. Food insecurity moderated the relationship between fussy eating and food exposure practices insofar that food secure mothers were more likely to prepare alternative meals for fussier children. Family resources and child fussy eating behaviours are identified as important contextual factors in food provision and feeding. Findings from the current study suggest that health professionals, researchers and policymakers tailor interventions to consider both the needs of families and child eating characteristics.