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J Nutr. 2011 Mar;141(3):490-4. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.129973. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Responsive feeding is embedded in a theoretical framework of responsive parenting.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Children throughout the world are confronted with growth problems ranging from underweight and stunting to overweight and obesity. The development of healthy eating behaviors depends on both healthy food and responsive parenting behaviors. With origins from anthropology, psychology, and nutrition, responsive parenting reflects reciprocity between child and caregiver, conceptualized as a 4-step mutually responsive process: 1) the caregiver creates a routine, structure, expectations, and emotional context that promote interaction; 2) the child responds and signals to the caregiver; 3) the caregiver responds promptly in a manner that is emotionally supportive, contingent, and developmentally appropriate; and 4) the child experiences predictable responses. This paper examines evidence for the practice and developmental benefits of responsive parenting with a view to providing a theoretical basis for responsive feeding. Recommendations are made that future efforts to promote healthy growth and to prevent underweight and overweight among young children incorporate and evaluate responsive feeding.

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