Research suggests family mealtimes are important for child obesity prevention and development of healthy eating habits, but findings are not consistent. We are analyzing naturalistic parent-child interactions outside of mealtimes using discourse analysis and behavioral coding approaches. The proposed work is relevant to public health, as eating outside of mealtimes, particularly snacking after school hours, has increased in recent years, is proposed as contributing to excessive child weight gain, and is a potentially important context for child socialization around food and eating.
Understanding how children and parents talk about food and eating (“food talk”) outside of mealtimes thus holds promise for the development of future child obesity prevention efforts focused on parenting and would also fill a critical methodological gap in the science, as extant studies rely on parents’ self-reported feeding, observed structured laboratory interactions, or family mealtimes. No prior study has observed parent-child food talk between meals in relation to indicators of child obesity risk. See here for a June 2017 article on family food talk, child eating behavior, and maternal feeding practices.