Projects & Research

Project 1: Mothers' Decision Making in Preschoolers Nutrition

Principal Investigators: Dr. Jie Weiss and Dr. Jessica Gomel

Specific Aims

The goal of this project is to investigate the decision-making processes associated with what mothers feed their preschool children, and to determine how these processes may be affected by individual differences (such as parenting style and health beliefs) and cultural traditions. Any type of decision is ultimately made after consideration of various factors.  In the case of mothers deciding what to feed to their young children, such factors may include the short-term and long-term goals the mother has for both her child and herself, perceived risks of providing or not providing a certain type of food, and situational/environmental factors that impinge upon the situation. While parental goals, attitudes, cultural and situational factors have all been studied in conjunction with parental feeding behaviors, there is little research that investigates these factors within a decision-making framework.

The current study will consider these issues using a decision-making framework that incorporates affective, nutritional, and developmental domains. The decision model we propose is a Multi-Attribute Utility (MAU) version of Edwards’s (1954) classic presentation of subjective expected utility (SEU), with the ultimate goal being to predict mothers’ decisions and their behaviors in feeding their children. This Multi-Attribute Utility model (MAU) consists of three components that are applied to all perceived consequences of a given decision: 1) subjective utility (values); 2) subjective probability (likelihood); and 3) importance to self.  We expect to observe an association between individual MAU, as computed from the model, and mothers’ behaviors in feeding children.  That is, we expect the model to predict mothers' feeding choices.
The specific aims of the current study include the following:
Identify the relevance of the theoretical domains of nutrition, emotion, and successful child development in the creation of decision-making models of mothers’ food choices on behalf of their preschool children.

  1. Identify a list of anticipated consequences, which may include nutritional, emotional and developmental aspects related to mothers’ feeding decision that is ecologically valid for multiple cultural groups.
  2. Assess the predictive value of the MAU model in mothers’ food choices on behalf of their preschool children.
  3. Determine the extent to which the MAU model is systematically affected by individual differences in factors such as parenting styles, ethnicity and cultural influence.

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