Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Science


Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Alison Tovar


Background: Hispanic preschool children in the United States are at greater risk for obesity compared to non-Hispanic whites. The objectives of our study were to explore two factors that may be important for obesity prevention in young children: 1) precursors and contextual influences on parental feeding and 2) parental engagement within the child-care setting food environment.

Methods: Four focus groups (n=37) were held with Hispanic parents of preschoolaged children at two child-care centers. Guiding questions focused on factors that influenced what and how parents feed their child, awareness of the child-care center feeding environment, and current involvement in the child-care center. Themes were coded for using NVivo10. Content analysis was used to analyze final themes.

Results: Participants’ childhood experience was found to influence feeding practices. Many of them shared similar childhood stories of having the “rule” to finish your plate. However, they reported using different feeding practices with their own children. The children’s grandparents’ indulgent behaviors were described as interfering with healthful dietary changes in the home. Husband’s food preferences also influenced what was served in the home. The participants reported wanting to be more involved in the child-care center but time was presented as the main barrier. The participants reported that the child-care feeding environment did have influences in the home. It was evident that the participants were aware of healthful behaviors.

Conclusion: Cultural and environmental factors influence parental feeding and involvement in the child-care setting. Using the socio-ecological model might provide more understanding to the different levels of influences on parental feeding.



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