Nutrition has significant importance in the course of growth and development in early childhood. Selective and fussy eating is prevalent among children with autism spectrum disorder and can have a profound impact on parents’ mealtime actions.
The study aimed to investigate the relationship between parental mealtime actions and the eating behaviours of children aged 3-5 years with typical development (TD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
A total of 180 parents of children between 3-5 years in Ankara participated in the study; 90 were parents of children with TD, and 90 were parents of children with ASD. We measured the variables using the Brief Assessment of Mealtime Behaviour in Children (BAMBIC), Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ), and Parent Mealtime Action Scale (PMAS).
The results revealed that food refusal, disruptive behaviours, and limited variety in TD children were related to parental actions, such as the use of rewards. We also found a negative correlation between enjoyment of food and the use of rewards. Children with ASD displayed differences concerning food refusal, and their parents were found to prepare more special meals for them compared to children with TD.
Despite differences, the eating behaviours of children with TD and ASD show similarities in some cases. If a child has a low interest in eating, then their parents tend to be more insistent, use more rewards, and offer special meals. On the contrary, a child’s high interest in eating harms such parental behaviours. Since an acknowledgment that a relationship exists between the eating behaviours of children and parental actions would make intervening to shape parental attitudes easier, it is recommended that future studies should be carried out to respond to the eating problems of children by working with parents.

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