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Early development of children’s eating behaviours: the interaction between parental feeding practices and child characteristics.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Blissett
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This project is an exciting opportunity to investigate some early origins of children’s eating behaviours. It is well established that infancy is a very important period for the development of taste preferences, and that growth trajectories during infancy have major implications for weight gain later in life. It is also clear from research conducted by Dr. Blissett and colleagues, that parent’s feeding practices have very powerful effects on children’s eating behaviours and weight gain in early life. What is less clear is how a variety of child characteristics might interact with parental feeding practices to predict outcomes. For example, difficult child temperament, impulsivity, and emotionality have all been suggested to be related to a greater likelihood of obesity, and the interaction between these characteristics and parent’s feeding practices has yet to be fully explored. Furthermore, how parenting interacts with biological predictors of appetite and taste preferences is virtually unexplored in infancy and early childhood. Finally, the development of abnormal eating behaviours in childhood, such as emotional eating, might be attributed to an interaction between parental feeding practices such as the use of food for emotion regulation purposes, and aspects of the child’s temperament or biological system.
The role of the interaction between child characteristics and parental feeding practices is an exciting Ph.D. programme which would involve the design and execution of a longitudinal study of a group of parents and their children within our Infant and Child Laboratory. The lab is very well equipped and you would have the opportunity to use observational methods, questionnaire measures, biological sampling, and experimental manipulation of eating environments to investigate these relationships in depth.

Funding Notes

Self funded students only.


Relevant references:
Coulthard, H & Blissett, J (2009). Sensory sensitivity and fruit and vegetable consumption. Appetite, 52, 410-415.
Blissett, J & Haycraft, E. (2008). Are parenting style and controlling feeding practices related? Appetite, 50 477-485. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.10.003.
Blissett, J. & Farrow, C. (2007) Predicting controlling feeding practices at one and two years. International Journal of Obesity 31, 1520-1526. DOI 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803661.
Blissett, J., Meyer, C., & Haycraft, E. (2007) Mental Health and child feeding difficulties in a non-clinical group. Eating Behaviors, 8, 311-318.
Blissett, J., Meyer, C., & Haycraft, E. (2006). Maternal and paternal controlling feeding practices with male and female children. Appetite, 47, 212-219.
Farrow, C. & Blissett, J. (2006). Does maternal control during feeding moderate early infant weight gain? Pediatrics, 118(2), 293-298.

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