Research Brief| Volume 54, ISSUE 7, P684-690, July 2022

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Acceptance of a Novel Food is Related to Caregiver Perceptions of Infant and Toddler Food-related Receptive Language



      Language development, both what is understood (receptive language) and spoken (expressive language), is considered critical to a child's ability to understand and interact with their environment. However, little research has investigated the role children's early language skills might play in their food acceptance. The objective of this study was to explore the relationships between young children's food-related receptive language (FRL) and food-related expressive language (FEL) and acceptance of novel food.


      Caregivers (n = 54) reported their perceptions of children's (aged 7–24 months) FRL and FEL using the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory. Novel food acceptance was observed (grams consumed) during a laboratory visit. Multivariable linear regression tested associations between FRL, FEL, and novel food acceptance, by child age (infants [aged from 7 to < 12 months], toddlers [aged 12–24 months]), and at a significance level of P < 0.1 for hypothesis-generating research.


      Children's FRL and food acceptance differed by age (F = 8.08, P = 0.01). Among toddlers, greater FRL was associated with greater novel food acceptance (0.22 g [95% confidence interval, −0.04 to 0.49]), P = 0.09). In infants, greater FRL was associated with lower novel food acceptance (−0.80 g [95% confidence interval, −1.53 to −0.07], P = 0.03). No association between FEL and novel food acceptance was noted in either group.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Toddlers’ understanding of food-related vocabulary may facilitate food acceptance; however, young infants may not yet have sufficient FRL to facilitate novel food acceptance.

      Key Words

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