Big hearts, small hands: A focus group study exploring parental food portion behaviours

Kristina Curtis, Katherine Brown, Louise Atkins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Background: The development of healthy food portion sizes among families is deemed critical to childhood weight management; yet little is known about the interacting factors influencing parents’ portion control behaviours. This study
    aimed to use two synergistic theoretical models of behaviour: the COM-B model (Capability, Opportunity, Motivation – Behaviour) and Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to identify a broad spectrum of theoretically derived influences on
    parents’ portion control behaviours including examination of affective and habitual influences often excluded from prevailing theories of behaviour change.
    Methods: Six focus groups exploring family weight management comprised of one with caseworkers (n = 4), four with parents of overweight children (n = 14) and one with parents of healthy weight children (n = 8). A thematic analysis was
    performed across the dataset where the TDF/COM-B were used as coding frameworks.
    Results: To achieve the target behaviour, the behavioural analysis revealed the need for eliciting change in all three COM-B domains and nine associated TDF domains. Findings suggest parents’ internal processes such as their emotional
    responses, habits and beliefs, along with social influences from partners and grandparents, and environmental influences relating to items such as household objects, interact to influence portion size behaviours within the home environment.
    Conclusion: This is the first study underpinned by COM-B/TDF frameworks applied to childhood weight management and provides new targets for intervention development and the opportunity for future research to explore the mediating and moderating effects of these variables on one another.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number716
    Number of pages14
    JournalBMC Public Health
    Early online date18 Sept 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Childhood weight management
    • Portion sizes
    • Theory
    • Behaviour change
    • Health promotion
    • Parental dietary behaviours
    • Childhood obesity prevention


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