Early feeding practices lay the foundation for children’s eating habits and weight gain. Questionnaires are available to assess parental feeding but overlapping and inconsistent items, subscales and terminology limit conceptual clarity and between study comparisons. Our aim was to consolidate a range of existing items into a parsimonious and conceptually robust questionnaire for assessing feeding practices with very young children (<3 years).
Data were from 462 mothers and children (age 21-27 months) from the NOURISH trial. Items from five questionnaires and two study-specific items were submitted to a priori item selection, allocation and verification, before theoretically-derived factors were tested using Confirmatory Factor Analysis. Construct validity of the new factors was examined by correlating these with child eating behaviours and weight.
Following expert review 10 factors were specified. Of these, 9 factors (40 items) showed acceptable model fit and internal reliability (Cronbach’s alpha: 0.61-0.89). Four factors reflected non-responsive feeding practices: ‘Distrust in Appetite’, ‘Reward for Behaviour’, ‘Reward for Eating’, and ‘Persuasive Feeding’. Five factors reflected structure of the meal environment and limits: ‘Structured Meal Setting’, ‘Structured Meal Timing’, ‘Family Meal Setting’, ‘Overt Restriction’ and ‘Covert Restriction’. Feeding practices generally showed the expected pattern of associations with child eating behaviours but none with weight.
The Feeding Practices and Structure Questionnaire (FPSQ) provides a new reliable and valid measure of parental feeding practices, specifically maternal responsiveness to children’s hunger/satiety signals facilitated by routine and structure in feeding. Further validation in more diverse samples is required.