Maternal feeding behaviour and young children's dietary quality: a cross-sectional study of socially disadvantaged mothers of two-year old children using the Theory of Planned Behaviour

Vivien Swanson (Lead / Corresponding author), Kevin G. Power, Iain K. Crombie, Linda Irvine, Kirsty Kiezebrink, Wendy Wrieden, Peter W. Slane

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Background: Having breakfast, eating food 'cooked from scratch' and eating together as a family have health and psychosocial benefits for young children. This study investigates how these parentally determined behaviours relate to children's dietary quality and uses a psychological model, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), to investigate socio-cognitive predictors of these behaviours in socially disadvantaged mothers of young children in Scotland.

Method: Three hundred mothers of children aged 2 years (from 372 invited to participate, 81% response rate), recruited via General Practitioners, took part in home-based semi-structured interviews in a cross-sectional survey of maternal psychological factors related to their children's dietary quality. Regression analyses examined statistical predictors of maternal intentions and feeding behaviours.

Results: Mothers of children with poorer quality diets were less likely than others to provide breakfast every day, cook from 'scratch' and provide 'proper sit-down meals'. TPB socio-cognitive factors (intentions, perceived behavioural control) significantly predicted these three behaviours, and attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioural control significantly predicted mothers' intentions, with medium to large effect sizes.

Conclusions: Interventions to improve young children's dietary health could benefit from a focus on modifying maternal motivations and attitudes in attempts to improve feeding behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2011


  • Dietary Quality
  • General Practitioner
  • Perceive Behavioural Control
  • Eating Breakfast
  • Poor Quality Diet

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