Improving the reporting of young children’s food intake: Insights from a cognitive interviewing study with mothers of 3–7-year old children

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Abstract

Short food questions (SFQ) allow for rapid reporting of food intake across a variety of settings but are limited by poor validity and reliability. Understanding the recall process used by parents to report children’s food intake can improve question design and psychometric performance. This study aimed to improve understanding of how parents report children’s dietary intake using SFQ. Semi-structured, cognitive interviews were conducted with 21 mothers of 3–7-year-old children. Mothers were asked to ‘think-aloud’ while answering SFQ about their child’s food intake. Thematic analysis identified themes relating to parent’s question and answer process and barriers to recall. Information retrieval strategies focused on ‘use-of-time’ and ‘sphere of food provision’ and differed for core versus unhealthy foods. Recall of routine and home food provision were used to report core food intake, whereas recall of special occasions and food provision outside the home guided recall of discretionary foods. Mothers utilize different recall strategies for core and discretionary foods based on use of time and the sphere of food provision. The ease of reporting children’s dietary intake may be improved by utilizing a shorter recall time frame, clear and direct question wording, and use of food examples and recall prompts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1645
JournalNutrients
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Keywords

  • Child food intake
  • Cognitive interview
  • Dietary intake assessment
  • Parent
  • Qualitative research
  • Short food questionnaire

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