What's the fuss about? Parent presentations of fussy eating to a parenting support helpline

Holly A. Harris*, Bonnie Ria-Searle, Elena Jansen, Karen Thorpe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective To characterise parent presentations of fussy eating and mealtime interactions at a point of crisis, through analyses of real-time recordings of calls to a parenting helpline.Design Qualitative analysis included an inductive thematic approach to examine clinical parent presentations of fussy eating and derive underlying themes relating to mealtime interactions.Setting Calls made to the Child Health Line regarding feeding concerns were recorded and transcribed verbatim.Subjects From a corpus of 723 calls made during a 4-week period in 2009, twelve were from parents of children aged 6-48 months.Results Parents of infants (≤12 months, n 6) presented feeding concerns as learning challenges in the process of transitioning from a milk-based to a solid-based diet, while parents of toddlers (13-48 months, n 6) presented emotional accounts of feeding as an intractable problem. Parents presented their child's eating behaviour as a battle (conflict), in which their children's agency over limited intake and variety of foods (child control) was constructed as 'bad' or 'wrong'. Escalating parent anxiety (parent concern) had evoked parent non-responsive feeding practices or provision of foods the child preferred.Conclusions Real-time descriptions of young children's fussy eating at a time of crisis that initiated parents' call for help have captured the highly charged emotional underpinnings of mealtime interactions associated with fussy eating. Importantly, they show the child's emerging assertion of food autonomy can escalate parents' emotional distress that, in the short term, initiates non-responsive feeding practices. The current study identifies the importance of educational and emotional support for parents across the period of introducing solids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1520-1528
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume21
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge the nurses and parent callers who consented to participate in this study. Financial support: Data collection for the Calling for Help study was supported by a grant from the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundations and Perpetual Trustees (K.T). H.A.H. is funded by the Research Training Program Award. B.R.-S. is funded by the Queensland University Technology Vacational Research Experience Scheme. The funding bodies had no role in the design of the study; collection, analysis and interpretation of data; and writing the manuscript. Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Authorship: H.A.H. led the conceptualisation of the design of the study, analyses and interpretation of the data, and critically reviewed and revised the manuscript. B.R.-S. contributed to the conceptualisation of the study design, performed the initial analysis and interpretation of the data, and drafted the first manuscript. E.J. contributed to the conceptualisation of the design of the study, assisted in the analyses and interpretation of results, and critically reviewed and revised the manuscript. K.T. supervised the study, made substantial contributions to the acquisition of data, contributed to the conceptualisation and study design, mentored the analyses and interpretation of the results, and critically reviewed and revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript as submitted. Ethics of human subject participation: Ethical approval was obtained from the Queensland University of Technology Human Research Ethics Committee (1600000045) and the Royal Brisbane Woman’s Hospital Ethics Committee (approval number 4121H). Verbal consent was obtained from all of the participants and formally recorded. Under the ethics agreement, nurses and callers were able to withdraw calls.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Authors 2018.

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