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Parents’ food choice motives and their associations with children’s food preferences

  • Catherine G Russell (a1), Anthony Worsley (a2) and Djin G Liem (a2)



The objective was to investigate parents’ motives for selecting foods for their children and the associations between these motives and children’s food preferences.


Cross-sectional survey. A modified version of the Food Choice Questionnaire was used to assess parents’ food choice motives. Parents also reported children’s liking/disliking of 176 food and beverage items on 5-point Likert scales. Patterns of food choice motives were examined with exploratory principal component analysis. Associations between motives and children’s food preferences were assessed with linear regression while one-way and two-way ANOVA were used to test for sociodemographic differences.


Two Australian cities.


Parents (n 371) of 2–5-year-old children.


Health, nutrition and taste were key motivators for parents, whereas price, political concerns and advertising were among the motives considered least important. The more parents’ food choice for their children was driven by what their children wanted, the less children liked vegetables (β =−0·27, P<0·01), fruit (β=−0·19, P<0·01) and cereals (β=−0·28, P<0·01) and the higher the number of untried foods (r=0·17, P<0·01). The reverse was found for parents’ focus on natural/ethical motives (vegetables β=0·17, P<0·01; fruit β=0·17, P<0·01; cereals β=0·14, P=0·01). Health and nutrition motives bordered on statistical significance as predictors of children’s fruit and vegetable preferences.


Although parents appear well intentioned in their motives for selecting children’s foods, there are gaps to be addressed in the nature of such motives (e.g. selecting foods in line with the child’s desires) or the translation of health motives into healthy food choices.

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