PARENTAL FOOD CHOICE FOR THEIR PRESCHOOL AGED CHILD: A MEANS-END INVESTIGATION
Preschoolers in the US are not meeting dietary guidelines, which is concerning since experience with foods during early childhood may influence food preferences in later life. To better understand why preschoolers are not meeting dietary guidelines it is necessary to understand the factors that influence why parents offer their children specific foods. The purpose of this study was to use the means-end framework and the laddering interview technique to better understand why parents of preschoolers decide to offer their children certain foods and why certain feeding strategies are helpful. A total of 33 parents of preschoolers (3–5-year-olds) completed one-on-one phone interviews regarding the foods they typically offer their child. Laddering data were elicited for three food groupings: foods parents typically offer, foods parents typically avoid, and foods parents prefer to offer. The resulting data were analyzed and summarized in a series of hierarchical value maps (HVMs). Parent and child-centric themes emerged as factors that influenced the foods parents offered their preschooler. The results of this study provide insight into the meanings and beliefs that impact the food decisions and feeding strategies used by parents of preschoolers.