Feeding attitudes, practices and traditional dietary beliefs of Chinese mothers with young children in Australia : a mixed methods study

Liu, Wei Hong (2013) Feeding attitudes, practices and traditional dietary beliefs of Chinese mothers with young children in Australia : a mixed methods study. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Background and Objectives

Obesity and some dietary related diseases are emerging health problems among Chinese immigrants and their children in developed countries. These health problems are closely linked to eating habits, which are established in the early years of life. Young children’s eating habits are likely to persist into later childhood and youth. Family environment and parental feeding practices have a strong effect on young children’s eating habits. Little information is available on the early feeding practices of Chinese mothers in Australia. The aim of this study was to understand the dietary beliefs, feeding attitudes and practices of Chinese mothers with young children who were recent immigrants to Australia.


Using a sequential explanatory design, this mixed methods study consisted of two distinct phases. Phase 1 (quantitative): 254 Chinese immigrant mothers of children aged 12 to 59 months completed a cross-sectional survey. The psychometric properties and factor structure of a Chinese version of the Child Feeding Questionnaire (CFQ, by Birch et al. 2001) were assessed and used to measure specific maternal feeding attitudes and controlling feeding practices. Other questions were developed from the literature and used to explore maternal traditional dietary beliefs and feeding practices related to their beliefs, perceptions of picky eating in children and a range of socioeconomic and acculturation factors. Phase 2 (qualitative): 21 mothers took part in a follow-up telephone interview to assist in explaining and interpreting some significant findings obtained in the first phase.


Chinese mothers held strong traditional dietary beliefs and fed their children according to these beliefs. However, children’s consumption of non-core foods was high. Both traditional Chinese and Australian style foods were consumed by their children. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the original 7-factor model of the CFQ provided an acceptable fit to the data with minor modification. However, an alternative model with eight constructs in which two items related to using food rewards were separated from the original restriction construct, not only provided an acceptable fit to the data, but also improved the conceptual clarity of the constructs. The latter model included 24 items loading onto the following eight constructs: restriction, pressure to eat, monitoring, use of food rewards, perceived responsibility, perception of own weight, perception of child’s weight, and concern about child becoming overweight. The internal consistency of the constructs was acceptable or desirable (Cronbach’s α = .60 - .93). Mothers reported low levels of concern about their child overeating or becoming overweight, but high levels of controlling feeding practices: restriction, monitoring, pressure to eat and use of food rewards. More than one quarter of mothers misinterpreted their child’s weight status (based on mothers’ self-reported data). In addition, mothers’ controlling feeding practices independently predicted half of the variance and explained 16% of the variance in child weight status: pressuring the child to eat was negatively associated with child weight status (β = -0.30, p < .01) and using food rewards was positively associated with child weight status (β = 0.20, p < .05) after adjusting for maternal and child covariates. Monitoring and restriction were not associated with child weight status. Mothers’ perceptions of their child’s weight were positively associated with child weight status (β = 0.33, p < .01). Moreover, mothers reported that they mostly decided what (65%) and how much (80%) food their child ate. Mothers who decided what food their child ate were more likely to monitor (β = -0.17, p < .05) and restrict (β = -0.17, p < .05) their child’s food consumption. Mothers who let their child decide how much food their child ate were less likely to pressure their child to eat (β = -0.38, p < .01) and use food rewards (β = -0.24, p < .01). Mothers’ perceptions of picky eating behaviour were positively associated with their use of pressure (β = 0.21, p < .01) and negatively associated with monitoring (β = -0.16, p < .05) and perceptions of their child’s weight status (β = -0.13, p < .05). Qualitative data showed that pressuring to eat, monitoring and restriction of the child’s food consumption were common practices among these mothers. However, mothers stated that their motivation for monitoring and restricting was to ensure the child’s general health. Mothers’ understandings of picky eating behaviour in their children were consistent with the literature and they reported multiple feeding strategies to deal with it.


Chinese immigrant mothers demonstrated strong traditional dietary beliefs, a low level of concern for child weight, misperceptions of child weight status, and a high overall level of control in child feeding in this study. The Chinese version of the CFQ, which consists of eight constructs and distinguishes between the constructs using food rewards and restriction, is an appropriate instrument to assess feeding attitudes and controlling feeding practices among Chinese immigrant mothers of young children in Australia. Mothers’ feeding attitudes and practices were associated with children’s weight status and mothers’ perceptions of picky eating behaviour in children after adjusting for a range of socio-demographic maternal and child characteristics. Monitoring and restriction of children’s food consumption according to food selection may be positive feeding practices, whereas pressuring to eat and using food rewards appeared to be negative feeding practices in this study. In addition, the results suggest that these young children have high exposure to energy-dense, nutrient-poor food. There is a need to develop and implement nutrition interventions to improve maternal feeding practices and the dietary quality among children of Chinese immigrant mothers in Australia.

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ID Code: 62157
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Daniels, Lynne, Mallan, Kimberley M., & Mihrshahi, Seema
Keywords: acculturation, Chinese immigrants, child feeding practices, childhood obesity, confirmatory factor analysis, controlling feeding practices, dietary beliefs, division of feeding responsibility, feeding attitudes, food acceptance, mixed methods, monitoring, picky eating, perception of weight, pressure to eat, restriction, self-regulation, using food rewards
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2013 01:02
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015 23:50

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