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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The impact of child care providers' feeding on chidren's food consumption

item Hughes, Sheryl
item Patrick, Heather
item Power, Thomas
item Fisher, Jennifer
item Anderson, Cheryl
item Nicklas, Theresa

Submitted to: Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2006
Publication Date: 4/1/2007
Citation: Hughes, S.O., Patrick, H., Power, T.G., Fisher, J.O., Anderson, C.B., Nicklas, T.A. 2007. The impact of child care providers' feeding on children's food consumption. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 28:100-107.

Interpretive Summary: Many young children spend a large portion of their young lives in day care. Child care providers probably impact young children's lives more than in previous decades due to the extended time that children spend with these providers. Feeding behaviors of child care providers have not been studied as much as parents' behaviors; however, child care providers may influence the eating behaviors of young children as much as parents. We studied the feeding behaviors of 50 child care providers in Head Start and examined the association between child care providers' feeding and children's consumption of food and beverages. Feeding behaviors such as giving second portions, offering second portions verbally, and giving children multiple servings of food were associated with more consumption in children. These behaviors were associated with more vegetable, dairy, starch and entree consumption. Reasoning with children such as saying "Drinking your milk will make you big and strong" was associated with milk consumption. Helping child care providers understand how their feeding behaviors impact young children is an important area that has been under examined.

Technical Abstract: In young children, the eating environment is an important social context within which eating behaviors develop. Among many low-income young children, the responsibility for feeding may have shifted from family members to child care providers because these children spend the majority of their day in child care settings. To examine the influence of feeding among low-income children in childcare settings, feeding behaviors of childcare providers in Head Start were observed and food consumption was assessed. Head Start, a comprehensive child development program that serves children from ages 3 to 5, was chosen because of the large percentage of minorities, the low-income status of the families, and the age of the children. Fifty child care providers (25 African-American; 25 Hispanic) randomly selected from Head Start centers in a large, urban southwestern city were observed on three mealtime occasions and self-reported feeding styles were assessed. Observed feeding behaviors were categorized into four feeding patterns based on their conceptual similarity to a general parenting typology (i.e., authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent, and uninvolved). Measures of food consumption were assessed on 549 children sitting with the child care providers during lunch at the Head Start centers. Indulgent feeding behaviors were positively related to children's consumption of vegetables, dairy, entree, and starch; authoritative feeding behaviors were positively related to dairy consumption. This research highlights the important influence that child care providers have in the development of healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors in minority children. Implications for intervention training for child care providers to promote healthy eating among Head Start children are discussed.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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