Public Health Nutrition

Biological and behavioural determinants

Parenting practices are associated with fruit and vegetable consumption in pre-school children

Teresia M O’Connora1 c1, Sheryl O Hughesa1, Kathy B Watsona1, Tom Baranowskia1, Theresa A Nicklasa1, Jennie O Fishera2, Alicia Beltrana1, Janice C Baranowskia1, Haiyan Qua3 and Richard M Shewchuka3

a1 USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston, TX 77030, USA

a2 Center for Obesity Research and Education, Department of Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

a3 Department of Health Services Administration, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA


Objective Parents may influence children’s fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption in many ways, but research has focused primarily on counterproductive parenting practices, such as restriction and pressure to eat. The present study aimed to assess the association of diverse parenting practices to promote F&V and its consumption among pre-school children.

Design An exploratory analysis was performed on cross-sectional data from 755 Head Start pre-school children and their parents collected in 2004–5. Data included parent practices to facilitate child F&V consumption (grouped into five categories); parent-reported dietary intake of their child over 3 d; and a number of potential correlates. K-means cluster analysis assigned parents to groups with similar use of the food parenting practice categories. Stepwise linear regression analyses investigated the association of parent clusters with children’s consumption of F&V, after controlling for potential confounding factors.

Results A three-cluster solution provided the best fit (R2 = 0·62), with substantial differences in the use of parenting practices. The clusters were labelled Indiscriminate Food Parenting, Non-directive Food Parenting and Low-involved Food Parenting. Non-directive parents extensively used enhanced availability and teachable moments’ practices, but less firm discipline practices than the other clusters, and were significantly associated with child F&V intake (standardized β = 0·09, P < 0·1; final model R2 = 0·17) after controlling for confounders, including parental feeding styles.

Conclusions Parents use a variety of parenting practices, beyond pressuring to eat and restrictive practices, to promote F&V intake in their young child. Evaluating the use of combinations of practices may provide a better understanding of parental influences on children’s F&V intake.

(Received March 11 2008)

(Accepted March 10 2009)

(Online publication June 03 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email