Parents are an ideal target to reduce children’s unhealthy food intake. Motivation is one component of behavior change; however, there is a paucity of research exploring parental motivation in unhealthy food provision. This study aimed to understand the relationships between, and relative importance of, constructs of parents’ reflective motivation and children’s intake of unhealthy foods. An online survey captured parent-rated reflective motivation constructs based on the health action process approach (HAPA) model, and children’s intake of unhealthy food using the short food survey. The HAPA model includes constructs of self-efficacy, risk perception, outcome expectancies, intention, and planning. Structural equation modelling was used to examine relationships between constructs and the HAPA model in its structural form. Four-hundred and ninety-five parents of three to seven-year olds completed the study. Model fit statistics (X2 = 210.03, df = 83, p < 0.001; Comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.96; Tucker Lewis index (TLI) = 0.94) supported suitability of the HAPA model. The HAPA model explained 9.2% of the variance in children’s unhealthy food intake. Constructs of self-efficacy (action to maintenance β = 0.69; maintenance to recovery β = 0.70; maintenance to planning β = 0.82) were found to be the most important constructs for reducing children’s unhealthy food intake, followed by planning (to unhealthy food intake β = −0.32) and intention (to planning β = 0.21). This study provides an initial insight into parental motivation and identifies primary intervention targets to enhance parental motivation to reduce unhealthy food provision, and subsequently children’s unhealthy food intake.
- Child nutrition
- Early childhood
- Health action process approach model
- Unhealthy food