The impact of app engagement in an intervention addressing parents’ fussy eating concerns


  • Brittany Markides Deakin University
  • Kylie Hesketh Deakin University
  • Rachel Laws Deakin University
  • Ralph Maddison Deakin University
  • Elizabeth Denney-Wilson The University of Sydney
  • Karen J Campbell Deakin University


Background: Although fussy eating is a developmentally normal behaviour, it is a source of anxiety and concern for up to half of parents of young children. Concern for fussy eating mediates parents’ use of nonresponsive feeding practises, which have poor, long-term health outcomes for children. However, few interventions have been developed for this population.

Aims: This randomised controlled feasibility trial evaluated a web app to improve feeding practices of parents concerned for fussy eating.

Methods: A web app was co-designed with parents of toddlers concerned about fussy eating. The final app included a food offer tracker, information about fussy eating/feeding strategies, recipes, and SMS. Participants were recruited via Facebook and randomised to intervention (n=25, received app access for 6 weeks) or control (n=26, wait-listed). T-tests evaluated pre/post differences in parent feeding practices and child eating behaviours; app engagement impact on outcomes was investigated with linear regression.

Results: No pre/post differences were found in the control group. Parents in the intervention reported significant decreases in children’s food fussiness (p = 0.04, Cohen D = 0.40) and aggressive mealtime behaviours (p = 0.01, Cohen D = .55). Higher app engagement predicted decreased parental concern for fussy eating (R2 = 0.77, F = 24.48, p = 0.03) and increased structured parent feeding practises (R2 = 0.52, F = 6.71, p = 0.0004).

Conclusions: A web app co-designed with parents to address their fussy eating concerns has potential to improve their feeding practices. A larger trial is warranted to examine long-term impacts.





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