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Snacking in young children: parental definitions, goals, and feeding practices


Snacking is suspected to contribute to excessive energy intake among young children. The family is a fundamental context for understanding how children's snacking habits develop. Yet, no studies have examined parenting effects on children's snacking behaviors for low-income ethnic minority families who are at particular risk of food insecurity, poor diet quality, and obesity. Research on snacking has been hindered by the lack of an accepted, empirically-based definition of snacking. Focusing on low-income African American and Hispanic families with preschool-aged children, this study will: qualitatively describe parents' definitions of child snacking and their approaches to feeding children snacks (Aim 1)~ rigorously develop and test a quantitative measure of these constructs (Aim 2)~ and evaluate relationships between parenting specific to child snacking and (a) parents' general child feeding practices and styles (b) children's nutrition and weight- related outcomes (Aim 3). This study will advance basic and translational science on parenting and child snacking through real-world empirical characterization of snacking from parents' perspective and development of the first validated measure of parents' snacking-specific feeding practices. Our interdisciplinary research team includes experts in children's nutrition and child feeding, theories of parenting and food schemas, and qualitative and quantitative methods. Innovations of the proposed research include the first empirical description of parents' definitions of child snacking and thei associated feeding approaches, the integration of research on food schemas and child-feeding, and the focus on snacking in low-income ethnic-minority children who are at disproportionate risk of poor nutrition and obesity.

Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.