Research Article| Volume 53, ISSUE 10, P858-869, October 2021

Download started.


Qualitative Exploration of Dimensions of Restrictive Feeding With Australian Mothers of 6-Year-Olds



      Explore the nature and dimensions of restrictive feeding with mothers of 6-year-olds.


      Semistructured interviews with mothers. Conversations were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.


      Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia.


      Twenty-nine mothers of 6-year-olds.

      Phenomenon of Interest

      Mothers’ restrictive feeding practices.


      Qualitative thematic analysis.


      This study revealed 6 key themes relating to the restrictive feeding phenomenon: restriction of specific foods and drinks; restrictive feeding practices; mothers’ motivation; mothers’ preferences for restricted foods; patterns over time; and relationships with other controlling feeding practices. Parents’ restrictive feeding practices are likely to be inherently inconsistent, with mothers reportedly varying their practices across different restricted foods, contexts, day to day, and as children age. Mothers intended to either totally restrict or restrict a food/drink in moderation, and these intentions presented qualitatively distinct characteristics across themes. Mothers commonly referred to foods/drinks restricted in moderation as treats, and their liking for these restricted foods/drinks was related to higher child access.

      Conclusions and Implications

      This study provides insights into the nature and dimensions of restrictive feeding. Further research is proposed to clarify these findings and examine the effects of child access, types of restrictive feeding practices, and parent communication on child preferences for restricted foods and drinks across a range of cultural groups.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Costanzo PR
        • Woody EZ.
        Domain-specific parenting styles and their impact on the child's development of particular deviance: the example of obesity proneness.
        J Soc Clin Psychol. 1985; 3: 425-445
        • Birch LL.
        Development of food preferences.
        Annu Rev Nutr. 1999; 19: 41-62
        • Fisher JO
        • Birch LL.
        Restricting access to palatable foods affects children's behavioral response, food selection, and intake.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69: 1264-1272
        • Jansen E
        • Mulkens S
        • Jansen A.
        Do not eat the red food!: prohibition of snacks leads to their relatively higher consumption in children.
        Appetite. 2007; 49: 572-577
        • Jansen E
        • Mulkens S
        • Emond Y
        • Jansen A.
        From the Garden of Eden to the land of plenty. Restriction of fruit and sweets intake leads to increased fruit and sweets consumption in children.
        Appetite. 2008; 51: 570-575
        • Ogden J
        • Cordey P
        • Cutler L
        • Thomas H.
        Parental restriction and children's diets. The chocolate coin and Easter egg experiments.
        Appetite. 2013; 61: 36-44
        • Rollins BY
        • Loken E
        • Savage JS
        • Birch LL.
        Effects of restriction on children's intake differ by child temperament, food reinforcement, and parent's chronic use of restriction.
        Appetite. 2014; 73: 31-39
        • Brewer MB
        • Crano WD.
        Research design and issues of validity.
        in: Reis HT Judd CM Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology. Cambridge University Press, 2000: 3-16
        • Campbell K
        • Andrianopoulos N
        • Hesketh K
        • et al.
        Parental use of restrictive feeding practices and child BMI z-score. A 3-year prospective cohort study.
        Appetite. 2010; 55: 84-88
        • Webber L
        • Cooke L
        • Hill C
        • Wardle J.
        Child adiposity and maternal feeding practices: a longitudinal analysis.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; 92: 1423-1428
        • Farrow CV
        • Blissett J.
        Controlling feeding practices: cause or consequence of early child weight?.
        Pediatrics. 2008; 121: e164-e169
        • Moore SN
        • Tapper K
        • Murphy S.
        Feeding strategies used by mothers of 3-5-year-old children.
        Appetite. 2007; 49: 704-707
        • Sherry B
        • McDivitt J
        • Birch LL
        • et al.
        Attitudes, practices, and concerns about child feeding and child weight status among socioeconomically diverse white, Hispanic, and African-American mothers.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2004; 104: 215-221
        • Rowan N
        • Wulff D.
        Using qualitative methods to inform scale development.
        Qual Rep. 2007; 12: 450-466
        • Musher-Eizenman D
        • Holub S.
        Comprehensive Feeding Practices Questionnaire: validation of a new measure of parental feeding practices.
        J Pediatr Psychol. 2007; 32: 960-972
        • Jansen E
        • Mallan KM
        • Nicholson JM
        • Daniels LA.
        The feeding practices and structure questionnaire: construction and initial validation in a sample of Australian first-time mothers and their 2-year olds.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014; 11: 72
        • Ogden J
        • Reynolds R
        • Smith A.
        Expanding the concept of parental control: a role for overt and covert control in children's snacking behaviour?.
        Appetite. 2006; 47: 100-106
        • Rollins BY
        • Savage JS
        • Fisher JO
        • Birch LL.
        Alternatives to restrictive feeding practices to promote self-regulation in childhood: a developmental perspective.
        Pediatr Obes. 2016; 11: 326-332
        • Vaughn AE
        • Ward DS
        • Fisher JO
        • et al.
        Fundamental constructs in food parenting practices: a content map to guide future research.
        Nutr Rev. 2016; 74: 98-117
        • Savage JS
        • Rollins BY
        • Kugler KC
        • Birch LL
        • Marini ME.
        Development of a theory-based questionnaire to assess structure and control in parent feeding (SCPF).
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 9
        • Faul A
        • van Zyl M.
        Constructing and validating a specific multi-item assessment or evaluation tool.
        in: Roberts A Kenneth R Desk Reference of Evidence-Based Practice in Health Care and Human Services. Oxford University Press, 2004: 564-581
        • Birch LL
        • Fisher JO
        • Grimm-Thomas K
        • Markey CN
        • Sawyer R
        • Johnson SL.
        Confirmatory factor analysis of the Child Feeding Questionnaire: a measure of parental attitudes, beliefs and practices about child feeding and obesity proneness.
        Appetite. 2001; 36: 201-210
        • Holland JC
        • Kolko RP
        • Stein RI
        • et al.
        Modifications in parent feeding practices and child diet during family-based behavioral treatment improve child zBMI.
        Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014; 22: E119-E126
        • Wardle J
        • Sanderson S
        • Guthrie CA
        • Rapoport L
        • Plomin R.
        Parental feeding style and the inter-generational transmission of obesity risk.
        Obes Res. 2002; 10: 453-462
        • Carnell S
        • Cooke L
        • Cheng R
        • Robbins A
        • Wardle J.
        Parental feeding behaviours and motivations. A qualitative study in mothers of UK pre-schoolers.
        Appetite. 2011; 57: 665-673
        • Herman AN
        • Malhotra K
        • Wright G
        • Fisher JO
        • Whitaker RC.
        A qualitative study of the aspirations and challenges of low-income mothers in feeding their preschool-aged children.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012; 9: 132
        • Loth KA
        • Uy M
        • Neumark-Sztainer D
        • Fisher JO
        • Berge JM.
        A qualitative exploration into momentary impacts on food parenting practices among parents of pre-school aged children.
        Appetite. 2018; 130: 35-44
        • Ventura AK
        • Gromis JC
        • Lohse B.
        Feeding practices and styles used by a diverse sample of low-income parents of preschool-age children.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2010; 42: 242-249
        • Gubbels JS
        • Kremers SP
        • Stafleu A
        • et al.
        Diet-related restrictive parenting practices. Impact on dietary intake of 2-year-old children and interactions with child characteristics.
        Appetite. 2009; 52: 423-429
        • Daniels LA
        • Magarey A
        • Battistutta D
        • et al.
        The NOURISH randomised control trial: positive feeding practices and food preferences in early childhood - a primary prevention program for childhood obesity.
        BMC Public Health. 2009; 9: 387
        • Harris H
        • Mallan KM
        • Nambiar S
        • Daniels LA.
        The relationship between controlling feeding practices and boys’ and girls’ eating in the absence of hunger.
        Eat Behav. 2014; 15: 519-522
        • Hennink MM
        • Kaiser BN
        • Marconi VC.
        Code saturation versus meaning saturation: how many interviews are enough?.
        Qual Health Res. 2017; 27: 591-608
        • Lincoln YS
        • Lynham S
        • Guba E.
        Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited.
        in: Denzin NK Lincoln YS The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage Publications, 2011: 97-128
        • Brooks J
        • McCluskey S
        • Turley E
        • King N.
        The utility of template analysis in qualitative psychology research.
        Qual Res Psychol. 2015; 12: 202-222
        • Blumer H.
        What is wrong with social theory?.
        Am Sociol Rev. 1954; 19: 3-10
        • Salvy SJ
        • Vartanian LR
        • Coelho JS
        • Jarrin D
        • Pliner PP.
        The role of familiarity on modeling of eating and food consumption in children.
        Appetite. 2008; 50: 514-518
        • Greenhalgh J
        • Dowey AJ
        • Horne PJ
        • Fergus Lowe C
        • Griffiths JH
        • Whitaker CJ
        Positive- and negative peer modelling effects on young children's consumption of novel blue foods.
        Appetite. 2009; 52: 646-653
        • Howard AJ
        • Mallan KM
        • Byrne R
        • Magarey A
        • Daniels LA.
        Toddlers’ food preferences. The impact of novel food exposure, maternal preferences and food neophobia.
        Appetite. 2012; 59: 818-825
        • Mallan KM
        • Fildes A
        • Magarey AM
        • Daniels LA.
        The relationship between number of fruits, vegetables, and noncore foods tried at age 14 months and food preferences, dietary intake patterns, fussy eating behavior, and weight status at age 3.7 years.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016; 116: 630-637
        • Daniels LA
        • Mallan KM
        • Nicholson JM
        • et al.
        An early feeding practices intervention for obesity prevention.
        Pediatrics. 2015; 136: e40-e49
        • Corsini N
        • Danthiir V
        • Kettler L
        • Wilson C.
        Factor structure and psychometric properties of the Child Feeding Questionnaire in Australian preschool children.
        Appetite. 2008; 51: 474-481
      1. Saldaña J. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. 2nd ed. Sage Publications; 2013.

        • Miles B
        • Huberman A
        • Saldaña J.
        Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook.
        3rd ed. Sage Publications, 2014
      2. World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight. Accessed February 6, 2021.

        • Martinez SM
        • Rhee K
        • Blanco E
        • Boutelle K.
        Maternal attitudes and behaviors regarding feeding practices in elementary school-aged Latino children: a pilot qualitative study on the impact of the cultural role of mothers in the US-Mexican border region of San Diego, California.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014; 114: 230-237
        • Boots SB
        • Tiggemann M
        • Corsini N
        • Mattiske J.
        Managing young children's snack food intake. The role of parenting style and feeding strategies.
        Appetite. 2015; 92: 94-101
        • Bevelander KE
        • Anschutz DJ
        • Engels RC.
        The effect of a fictitious peer on young children's choice of familiar v. unfamiliar low- and high-energy-dense foods.
        Br J Nutr. 2012; 108: 1126-1133
        • Van de Mortel TF.
        Faking it: social desirability response bias in self-report research.
        Aust J Adv Nurs. 2008; 25: 40-48
        • Fildes A
        • van Jaarsveld CH
        • Llewellyn CH
        • Fisher A
        • Cooke L
        • Wardle J.
        Nature and nurture in children's food preferences.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2014; 99: 911-917
        • Jackson K
        • Jansen E
        • Mallan KM.
        Examining child intake frequency, mothers’ own liking and child early exposure as potential predictors of child liking for restricted foods and drinks at 5 years old.
        Public Health Nutr. 2020; 23: 2355-2364