Examining parents’ experiences and challenges of feeding preschool children with avid eating behaviour

Katie L. Edwards*, Jacqueline Blissett, Helen Croker, Claire Farrow, Moritz Herle, Alice Kininmonth, Clare Llewellyn, Abigail Pickard, Emma Haycraft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Avid eating behaviours, including greater responsiveness to food cues and emotional over-eating, have been linked to child overweight and obesity. Parental feeding practices are modifiable components of a child’s food environment and may be key levers for behaviour change in tailored interventions to support parents of children with avid eating behaviour. However, there is a lack of research examining parents’ experiences in this context. This study aimed to explore parents’ experiences of feeding children with avid eating behaviour and to understand any challenges experienced in this context. Semi-structured interviews with parents (N=15) of a preschool child (3-5 years) identified as having an avid eating behaviour profile explored how children’s avid eating manifests, the parental feeding practices used to manage avid eating, and the perceived effectiveness of these strategies. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Four core themes were generated. Theme one, ‘Have they got worms? Children’s insatiable hunger’, captures parents’ interpretation of the complex ways in which avid eating behaviour manifests. Theme two, ‘Parenthood as a duty’, illustrates how parents’ perceived responsibilities shape their feeding practices. Theme three, ‘Lifelong habits’, captures parents’ use of responsive feeding practices to support children’s healthy relationship with food. Theme four, ‘Picking battles’, captures the structure- and coercive-based feeding strategies commonly used to manage children’s avid eating. This novel study provides an in-depth understanding of the complex ways that children’s avid eating behaviour manifests, and the strategic and creative parental feeding practices used to manage these behaviours. Such findings are valuable for informing the development of future support resources for parents/caregivers to help their children with avid eating behaviours to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107372
Number of pages10
Early online date22 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2024, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • Avid eating
  • Food approach
  • Children's eating behaviour
  • Parental feeding practices


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