Parental Perspectives on Preschool Children’s Lifestyle : quantitative and qualitative aspects

Sammanfattning: Children’s lifestyle has changed significantly during the recent decades, with an increasing prevalence of obesity as one outcome. Parents are usually the most influential people in young children’s lives. The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate parental perspectives on factors associated with 3-6 year-old children’s lifestyle, regarding eating habits and physical activity. Another objective was to compare different approaches to conducting postal questionnaires in terms of response rate, time consumption and cost-efficiency. The samples in the four studies were parents of 6-year-olds (n=158), parents of 3-year-olds (n=873), parents of 4-year-olds (n=30) and parents of 3-year-olds (n=353). In the first study, a questionnaire regarding practices and attitudes towards their child’s lifestyle, perceived obstacles and desired support was used. The second study included the Swedish Parenthood Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ), the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ) and the CFQ (Child Feeding Questionnaire). Parents also reported their child’s TV-viewing habits. The child’s measured height, weight and BMI were obtained from a register, BASTA. In the third study, focus group interviews were performed. The fourth study investigated three types of consent given for participation in a survey. The results showed that parents’ attitudes towards children’s lifestyle, in general, were “healthier” than their reports of their child’s daily practices. The practices differed depending on the parents’ educational background. Significant and dose-dependant associations were found between perceived maternal stress and children’s overweight, but also underweight. Parents felt that they were mainly responsible for their preschool child’s lifestyle. However, parents described challenges that limited and obstructed them from providing their child with a healthy lifestyle, citing the need to receive professional and peer support, while also requesting support from society. Allowing respondents to actively decline participation yielded a higher response rate and proved to be the most cost-efficient method for conducting a postal questionnaire.