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Appetite. 1989 Jun;12(3):171-82.

Changing children's food preferences: parent opinions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


This study is the first systematic survey directed at discovering the beliefs and practices of parents with respect to the creation of likes or dislikes for food by their young children. Seventy-six American parents completed a questionnaire that asked for their spontaneous suggestions about ways to create food likes and dislikes, and probed their opinions of the effectiveness, and frequency of use, of 11 possible methods for creating food likes and six for creating dislikes. Favored methods for creation of likes most commonly invoked a positive social-affective context, such as indication to the child that parents like the food in question, or involving the child in preparation of the food. Coercive methods were thought to be ineffective. Contrary to the overjustification literature, parents thought that rewarding ingestion of a target food would be at least as likely to produce an increased liking for the food as using the target food as a reward. Parents were more forthcoming with suggestions for creating likes than for creating dislikes. While parents believe that mixing a target food with a highly desirable or undesirable food can change the preference for the target food, they rarely use this technique. Parents of children who were problem eaters showed no characteristic differences in training practices or attitudes.

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