Objective: The aim of this qualitative study was to investigate the child-feeding behaviors and attitudes of parents of children aged 2 to 5 years, within the theory of planned behavior (TPB) framework. Methods: Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted in October 2011. The interviewer conducted and recorded the interviews from a community health center, to interviewees who were in their own home environment. Verbatim transcription of interviews preceded manual coding of data. Emergent themes were mapped into a matrix against a priori-coded TPB constructs (attitudes, beliefs, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention). Results: Twenty-one consenting parents participated in interviews. Participants were predominantly tertiary-educated (65%) mothers (85%) who were older than 30 years (76%). Parents believed that optimal child nutrition is important but difficult to achieve. Behavioral intention to change feeding practices was limited by a belief that child’s dietary intake is above average compared with their peer group. Perceived control over child dietary intake was influenced by food advertising, extended family, and peer influences. Parents supported targeting nutrition education directly at children and a policy approach to offset the costs of fresh foods by taxing “junk” foods. Conclusions: The application of TPB to child feeding may explain the disparity between parents’ child-feeding intentions and behaviors. Parents’ feeding behaviors are more influenced by peers than by dietary guidelines. Future interventions need to target parents’ perceived child-feeding responsibilities, influence subjective norms, and increase parents’ perceived control over child feeding. Peer nutrition education is proposed as an intervention model.
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Vol. 34, Issue 4, p. 227-236