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Maternal feeding behaviour and young children's dietary quality: A cross-sectional study of socially disadvantaged mothers of two-year old children using the Theory of Planned Behaviour

Vivien Swanson1*, Kevin G Power2, Iain K Crombie3, Linda Irvine3, Kirsty Kiezebrink4, Wendy Wrieden5 and Peter W Slane6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK

2 Department of Clinical Psychology, NHS Tayside, 7, Dudhope Terrace, Dundee, DD3 6HG, UK

3 Department of Public Health, University of Dundee, Mackenzie Building, Kirsty Semple Way, Dundee DD2 4BF, UK

4 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD, UK

5 School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, The Robert Gordon University, Schoolhill, Aberdeen, AB10 1FR, UK

6 Erskine Practice, Arthurstone Medical Practice, Dundee, DD4 6QY, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:65  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-65

Published: 23 June 2011



Having breakfast, eating food 'cooked from scratch' and eating together as a family have health and psychosocial benefits for young children. This study investigates how these parentally determined behaviours relate to children's dietary quality and uses a psychological model, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), to investigate socio-cognitive predictors of these behaviours in socially disadvantaged mothers of young children in Scotland.


Three hundred mothers of children aged 2 years (from 372 invited to participate, 81% response rate), recruited via General Practitioners, took part in home-based semi-structured interviews in a cross-sectional survey of maternal psychological factors related to their children's dietary quality. Regression analyses examined statistical predictors of maternal intentions and feeding behaviours.


Mothers of children with poorer quality diets were less likely than others to provide breakfast every day, cook from 'scratch' and provide 'proper sit-down meals'. TPB socio-cognitive factors (intentions, perceived behavioural control) significantly predicted these three behaviours, and attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioural control significantly predicted mothers' intentions, with medium to large effect sizes.


Interventions to improve young children's dietary health could benefit from a focus on modifying maternal motivations and attitudes in attempts to improve feeding behaviours.