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About feeding children: factor structure and internal reliability of a survey to assess mealtime strategies and beliefs of early childhood education teachers

Swindle, Taren, Sigman-Grant, Madeleine, Branen, Laurel J., Fletcher, Janice, Johnson, Susan L.
The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 2018 v.15 no.1 pp. 85
adults, child nutrition, children, cross-sectional studies, diet, early childhood education, factor analysis, foods, surveys, teachers
BACKGROUND: Children spend a substantial amount of time in early care and education (ECE) settings and may eat a majority of their diet in this setting. While there are several instruments focused on measuring factors of the ECE environment that may influence diet and weight outcomes, there are few comprehensive, valid, and reliable measures for collecting self-report of ECE providers’ feeding practices. The purpose of this study was to establish the factor structure and internal reliability of a survey developed to measure practices and beliefs of ECE providers relative to feeding children. METHODS: Licensed ECE centers from CA, CO, ID and NV were included in this cross-sectional survey study. The sample was stratified by states and census regions to yield equal numbers of centers from each category. The total sample distribution included 1600 randomly selected centers and up to 8000 staff members (who represented teachers, aides, assistants, or cooks); 1178 surveys were completed. We conducted an exploratory, unrestricted factor analysis as well as parallel analyses to inform the number of factors to be extracted. RESULTS: Factors within Structural Mealtime Strategies included Adult Control of Foods Consumed (Kuder-Richardson [KR] = 0.67), Bribing with Sweet Foods (KR = 0.70), and Supportive Adult Roles at Mealtime (KR = 0.55). Factors in Verbal Mealtime Strategies included Supporting Children’s Eating Self-regulation (KR =0.61), Pressure to Eat (KR = 0.58), and Social Comparisons (KR = 0.59). Beliefs about Mealtime factors were Autonomy Promoting (α = 0.64), Coercive Beliefs (α = 0.77), and Concern-Based Control (α = 0.60). CONCLUSIONS: The AFC Strategies and Beliefs Survey provides a promising self-report instrument with a strong factor structure consistent with the extant literature to measure practices and beliefs related to feeding and mealtimes in the ECE setting. Feeding young children in group settings differs in many ways from feeding in a family setting; hence it is important that measures such as the AFC Strategies and Beliefs Survey capture unique aspects of the ECE feeding environment.