The role of fathers in child feeding: perceived responsibility and predictors of participation

Kimberley Mallan, Michaela Nothard, K Thorpe, Jan Nicholson, A Wilson, Paul Scuffham, Lynne Daniels

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    52 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The role of fathers in shaping their child's eating behaviour and weight status through their involvement in child feeding has rarely been studied. This study aims to describe fathers' perceived responsibility for child feeding, and to identify predictors of how frequently fathers eat meals with their child. Methods: Four hundred and thirty-six Australian fathers (M age = 37 years, SD = 6 years; 34% university educated) of a 2-5-year-old child (M age = 3.5 years, SD = 0.9 years; 53% boys) were recruited via contact with mothers enrolled in existing research projects or a university staff and student email list. Data were collected from fathers via a self-report questionnaire. Descriptive and hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted. Results: The majority of fathers reported that the family often/mostly ate meals together (79%). Many fathers perceived that they were responsible at least half of the time for feeding their child in terms of organizing meals (42%); amount offered (50%) and deciding if their child eats the 'right kind of foods' (60%). Time spent in paid employment was inversely associated with how frequently fathers ate meals with their child (β = -0.23, P < 0.001); however, both higher perceived responsibility for child feeding (β = 0.16, P < 0.004) and a more involved and positive attitude toward their role as a father (β = 0.20, P < 0.001) were positively related to how often they ate meals with their child, adjusting for a range of paternal and child covariates, including time spent in paid employment. Conclusions: Fathers from a broad range of educational backgrounds appear willing to participate in research studies on child feeding. Most fathers were engaged and involved in family meals and child feeding. This suggests that fathers, like mothers, should be viewed as potential agents for the implementation of positive feeding practices within the family.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)715-722
    Number of pages8
    JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


    • Child feeding
    • Childhood obesity
    • Fathers
    • Feeding practices


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