This study explored the parenting practices that parents of 5-12 year-old children report using to encourage or discourage children's healthy eating and examined sex differences in parent's responses. A stratified sample of 135 parents in the US and Canada completed a semi-qualitative online survey (Jan-Feb 2014) (stratified by parents' sex, income, and ethnicity of each country). Parents provided short answers to questions regarding the strategies they or other parents used to encourage or discourage their children's healthy eating (5-12 year-old). The 2389 parent responses were coded by two coders with discrepancies triangulated. Data was qualitatively reviewed and log-linear analysis assessed whether responses varied by types of encouragement (encourage, discourage), sex of parent (male, female), and six dimensions of parenting practices (autonomy promotion, structure of the food environment, behavioral and educational, control, responsiveness, and consistency of the food environment). Parenting practices that were controlling or promoted structure were predominantly mentioned as a way to regulate children's eating behavior. Strategies that support children's self-regulatory processes, such as autonomy promotion and responsiveness, were infrequently mentioned. Sex differences in parenting practices emerged. Mothers mentioned autonomy promoting practices more often than fathers did. Fathers mentioned controlling practices more often than mothers did as a practice that discouraged healthy eating among children. The findings highlighted that parents need to gain a greater understanding of the practices that nurture healthy eating in children, such as autonomy supportive and responsive parenting practices, to better support children as they grow.
Keywords: Child; Diet; Nutrition; Parenting practices; Qualitative.
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