“Wading Through Sludge”: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Parental Experiences of Child Feeding in the Context of Avoidant Eating

Cormack, J. L. (2022) “Wading Through Sludge”: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Parental Experiences of Child Feeding in the Context of Avoidant Eating. Post-Doctoral thesis, Bishop Grosseteste University.

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Responsive feeding is an approach to feeding children that prioritises child autonomy and supports children’s ability to regulate their energy intake. Alongside innate and developmental factors, nonresponsive feeding practices - specifically pressure to eat - are associated with increased avoidant (‘picky’) eating, a common parenting challenge. Although much is known about associations between feeding practices and child eating behaviours, an in depth understanding of the parental perspective is lacking. This programme of research comprises a systematic review of the conceptualisation of pressure to eat and a qualitative study: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of maternal meaning making in relation to their feeding practices and their child’s eating behaviours. The study is unique in its methodology and its sample (UK mothers of nonclinical avoidant eaters seeking support from their health visitor). Ten participants were recruited and data were gathered using semi-structured interviews. It was found that current or past use of pressure to eat was ubiquitous in this sample. This was captured by the superordinate theme ‘Getting the food down the child’. Three further superordinate themes were identified. These concerned maternal agency, identity, and attempts to understand. It is argued that participants experienced child feeding as an unwinnable battle, their only options being to fight on in vain or submit completely. There may be several factors contributing to this. First, a lack of knowledge, both of responsive feeding and common causes of avoidant eating. Secondly, a misinterpretation of aspects of the feeding literature, embedded in the contemporary parenting canon. Finally, a sense of hopelessness - participants felt they had tried everything, nothing worked, and no one had any answers. These findings comprise an original, fine-grained insight into maternal meaning making in the context of avoidant eating. They have implications for research and practice, especially regarding screening and support provided in primary care.

Item Type: Thesis (Post-Doctoral)
Additional Information: This is a PhD completed at Bishop Grosseteste University, awarded by University of Leicester. © 2021 Johanna Cormack
Depositing User: Stephen Macdonald
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2023 11:06
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 11:06
URI: https://bgro.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/1051

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