Fussy eating in school-aged children: a mixed-method study


  • H. Wolstenholme
  • C. Heary
  • C. Kelly


Background: Fussy eating refers to an unwillingness to eat familiar and novel foods. It is associated with increased mealtime conflict, can impact nutritional intake, and if persistent can influence the development of chronic health conditions. School-aged children have been neglected in the literature with a larger focus on preschoolers. This research aims to explore factors associated with school-aged children’s fussy eating and to develop a deeper understanding of the perceptions and experiences of parents of both fussy and non-fussy eaters. Methods: This mixed-method study integrates quantitative and qualitative data. A questionnaire consisting of the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire and family demographics was completed by parents of 73 6-9 year-old children and was used to explore factors associated with fussy eating. This quantitative component also informs sampling and focus of follow up interviews which provide a deeper insight into parents’ perceptions and experiences. Both correlation analysis and thematic analysis are used. Findings: Moderate to severe fussy eating was reported in 34% of cases. Food fussiness correlated with birth order (r = .234, p < .05), household income (r = -.35, p < .05) and number of problematic eating behaviours reported by parents (r = .64, p < .05), but was not associated with parents’ diet. Thematic analysis provides insight into the influences, impact, experiences and management of school-aged children’s fussy eating. Discussion: Findings inform future qualitative work with children and health professionals and may inform future policies and guidelines that promote healthy family food behaviours.





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