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Matern Child Nutr. 2013 Jan 15. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12017. [Epub ahead of print]

A qualitative study exploring parental accounts of feeding pre-school children in two low-income populations in the UK.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.


Good nutrition in the early years of life is essential, yet the diets of many pre-school children in the UK are known to be poor. Understanding the decisions parents make when feeding young children is very important in determining what type and nature of interventional support may be developed to promote good nutrition. The aim of this study was to explore using qualitative methods, parental perceptions of feeding their children in order to inform the development of a nutrition intervention. Focus groups (n = 33) and individual interviews (n = 6) were undertaken with parents, most of whom were attending children's centres in two deprived populations from one urban (Islington, north London) and one rural (Cornwall) location in England. Accounts of feeding pre-school children were primarily concerned with dealing with the practicalities of modern life, in particular the cost of food and the need to manage on a restricted household budget. Time pressures, a lack of perceived knowledge and confidence in preparing food and managing conflict over food choices between family members were also strong themes. Parents commonly reported differences between how they would like to feed their children and the reality of what they were able to do in their circumstances. These findings suggest that the poor eating habits of many pre-school children may be less a case of parental ignorance but rather the product of a range of coping strategies. Designing an intervention, which helps parents to build their confidence and self-efficacy, may enable them to make positive changes to their children's diets.

© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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