Qualitative Analysis of Dietary Behaviors in Picture Book Fiction for 4- to 8-Year-Olds

  • Oksana Matvienko
    Address for correspondence: Oksana Matvienko, PhD, School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services, 203 Wellness Recreation Center, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0241; Phone: (319) 273-3613; Fax: (319) 273-5958
    School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA
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      Picture books may facilitate parents' efforts to decrease pickiness and other undesirable food habits in children. This study conducted a content analysis of dietary behaviors and feeding strategies featured in fictional picture books compared with those discussed in the research literature.


      Several databases were searched for fictional picture books about dietary behavior, published between 2000 and 2016, accessible in the US, available in print format, and designated for 4- to 8-year-olds.

      Phenomenon of Interest

      Messages about dietary behavior in picture book fiction.


      Stories were systematically coded using holistic, data-driven, and evaluation coding methods. The final set of codes was examined for themes and patterns.


      Of the 104 books, 50% featured a specific eating behavior, 21% lifestyle/eating patterns, 20% food-related sensations and emotions, and 9% table manners.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Books about dietary behaviors are abundant but the topic coverage is unbalanced. Problem behaviors portrayed in books overlap those discussed in the research literature. However, problem-solving strategies and actions do not align with those endorsed by nutrition professionals. Messages vary in their complexity (in terms of their plot and/or language), ranging from clear and direct to vague, sophisticated, unresolved, conflicting, or controversial. Recommendations for practitioners are discussed.

      Key Words

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