Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creating a home away from home: Examining preschool teachers' nutrition beliefs, practices and feeding styles, and associations with training
by Cooper, Christen Cupples, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2017, 215; 10256996
Abstract (Summary)

The majority of preschool-age children attend some type of preschool or day care, where they get up to three-quarters of their weekday nutrition. For children at low-income preschools receiving Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) funding, nourishing meals may also compensate for food insecurity at home, and nutrition standards for CACFP meals were recently upgraded. Best practice guidelines for preschool meals recommend that teachers sit and eat with students, utilizing mealtimes for nutrition education. The study’s primary purpose was to explore preschool teachers’ nutrition-related beliefs, practices and feeding styles (their overall approaches to mealtimes). The secondary purpose was to compare those teachers who received Eat Well, Play Hard (EWPH), a nutrition and physical activity professional development program, with those who did not.

Six-hundred and sixty preschool teachers, 420 trained by EWPH (n=47 schools), and 240 not trained (n=16 schools), completed a questionnaire on beliefs, practices and feeding styles. Descriptive statistics, ANOVAs, Chi-Square tests, and hierarchical linear modeling were used for data analysis. Teachers reported largely positive beliefs about their preschools’ nutrition environments and about carrying out recommended mealtime practices. Teachers who were parents, had five years or more of teaching experience and were non-White reported significantly higher scores on mealtime feeding practices than other teachers. In terms of feeding styles, teachers were relatively evenly spread among the four categories: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved, with no statistically significant differences between trained vs. non-trained teachers. Authoritarian teachers reported the lowest mean scores on beliefs about their preschool nutrition environment, and the highest scores on carrying out recommended practices. Training was significantly associated with more positive beliefs and mealtime practices. No associations were found between beliefs and practices with feeding style.

These findings can inform preschool nutrition training for teachers about beliefs and practices that may be useful for targeting in interventions. They may also be useful for framing future research with feeding style, a more comprehensive approach to preschool child feeding.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Contento, Isobel R., Wolf, Randi
Commitee: Gray, Heewon L., Koch, Pam, Piccolo, Joseph
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Health and Behavior Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Nutrition
Keywords: Child obesity, Eat well, Head Start, Nutrition, Play hard, Preschool, Professional development
Publication Number: 10256996
ISBN: 978-1-369-59709-7
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