‘I'm having jelly because you've been bad!’: A grounded theory study of mealtimes with siblings in Australian families

Susannah K. Ayre*, Melanie J. White, Holly A. Harris, Rebecca A. Byrne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Obesity prevention interventions have been designed to promote responsive feeding in early childhood. However, existing interventions primarily target first-time mothers without considering the complexities of feeding multiple children within a family unit. By applying principles of Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT), this study aimed to explore how mealtimes are enacted in families with more than one child. A mixed-methods study was conducted with parent–sibling triads (n = 18 families) in South East Queensland, Australia. Data included direct mealtime observations, semistructured interviews, field notes, and memos. Data were analysed using open and focused coding, during which constant comparative analysis was applied. The sample comprised of two-parent families with children ranging in age from 12 to 70 months (median sibling age difference = 24 months). A conceptual model was developed to map sibling-related processes integral to the enactment of mealtimes in families. Notably, this model captured feeding practices used by siblings, such as pressure to eat and overt restriction, that previously had only been described in parents. It also documented feeding practices used by parents that may occur only in the presence of a sibling, such as leveraging sibling competitiveness and rewarding a child to vicariously condition their sibling's behaviour. The conceptual model demonstrates complexities in feeding that give shape to the overall family food environment. Findings from this study can inform the design of early feeding interventions that support parents to remain responsive, particularly when their perceptions and expectations of siblings differ.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13484
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number2
Early online date19 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Open access publishing facilitated by Queensland University of Technology, as part of the Wiley - Queensland University of Technology agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians.

Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Authors. Maternal & Child Nutrition published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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