Translating it into real life: A qualitative study of the cognitions, barriers and supports for key obesogenic behaviors of parents of preschoolers

Jennifer Martin-Biggers, Kim Spaccarotella, Nobuko Hongu, Gayle Alleman, John Worobey, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about preschool parents' cognitions, barriers, supports and modeling of key obesogenic behaviors, including breakfast, fruit and vegetable consumption, sugary beverage intake, feeding practices, portion sizes, active playtime, reduced screen-time, sleep and selection of child-care centers with characteristics that promote healthy behaviors. Methods: Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine these factors via survey and focus groups among 139 parents of 2- to 5-year-old children. Standard content analysis procedures were used to identify trends and themes in the focus group data, and Analysis of Variance was used to test for differences between groups in the survey data. Results: Results showed 80% of parents ate breakfast daily, consumed sugary beverages 2.7∈±∈2.5SD days per week, and had at least two different vegetables and fruits an average of 5.2∈±∈1.8SD and 4.6∈±∈2.0SD days per week. Older parents and those with greater education drank significantly fewer sugary drinks. Parents played actively a mean 4.2∈±∈2.2 hours/week with their preschoolers, who watched television a mean 2.4∈±∈1.7 hours/day. Many parents reported having a bedtime routine for their preschooler and choosing childcare centers that replaced screen-time with active play and nutrition education. Common barriers to choosing healthful behaviors included lack of time; neighborhood safety; limited knowledge of portion size, cooking methods, and ways to prepare healthy foods or play active indoor games; the perceived cost of healthy options, and family members who were picky eaters. Supports for performing healthful behaviors included planning ahead, introducing new foods and behaviors often and in tandem with existing preferred foods and behaviors, and learning strategies from other parents. Conclusions: Future education programs with preschool parents should emphasize supports and encourage parents to share helpful strategies with each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number189
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015


  • Home environment
  • Obesity
  • Preschoolers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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