Caregiver verbal encouragement increases food acceptance among vietnamese toddlers

Kirk A. Dearden, Sterling Hilton, Margaret E. Bentley, Laura E. Caulfield, Cathleen Wilde, Pham Bich Ha, David Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Responsive feeding, defined as the positive environment and caregiving behaviors that encourage children to eat, is critical to their physical, mental, and social development. However, research and programs designed to foster responsive feeding have been limited. This research tested the hypothesis that caregiver encouragement, caregiver and child behaviors, and other feeding characteristics were associated with acceptance of food. A total of 91 mother/child pairs in rural, northern Vietnam were videotaped during 2 2-h feeding episodes. Children were 12 and 17 mo of age at the time of study. Caregiver and child behaviors were coded at the level of the "intended bite" (7135 bites total). Feeding episodes were marked by few physical actions and minimal verbal encouragement by caregivers. Results from generalized linear mixed models suggest that when caregivers provided children with positive comments, children were 2.4 times as likely to accept bites compared with when no comments were given. Twelve-mo-olds who were in the caregiver's arms [odds ratio (OR)=0.5] or lap (OR= 0.5) were significantly less likely than those who stood to accept bites. The 17-mo-olds who played were less likely than those with no physical action to accept bites. Play appeared to distract boys more than girls. In Vietnam, programs should help caregivers provide positive verbal encouragement to eat. Program planners and implementers may want to encourage caregivers to avoid force feeding and other forms of physical pressure. Further, mealtime should be seen as an opportunity to develop long-term feeding skills and encourage a healthy appetite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1392
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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