The Nutritional Effect of Parental Use of Food as a Reward


Control rules are common parental practices that use food as reward to encourage children to conduct parents' preferred behaviors. This field observational study aims to examine whether control rules are associated with children's increased fat, carbohydrate and total energy intake in everyday eating, and whether this effect is moderated by individual differences in sensitivity to reward, and by gender differences.

Full Title of Study: “Field Observation of Adverse Nutritional Effect of Parental Use of Food as a Reinforcer for Non-food Related Behavior”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Observational
  • Study Design
    • Time Perspective: Cross-Sectional
  • Study Primary Completion Date: July 2013

Detailed Description

Control rules are parental practices that use food as an instrumental reinforcer to encourage children to behave in a normative manner in non-food domains. Since food high in fat or sugar is usually chosen as a reinforcer for control rules, these rules may lead to children's increased preference and every day intake of food high in sugar/fat. Research propositions were examined in 207 six to twelve-year-old children (97 boys and 110 girls). Their parents reported the children's everyday dietary intake through a food frequency questionnaire, and provided information regarding the children's sensitivity to rewards as well as an indication of how frequently they enforce family control rules.


  • Other: no intervention
    • no intervention

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Food Frequency Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: last month recall
    • A web-based Food Frequency Questionnaire was used to aske participants’ parents to recall their children’s food intake over the last month based on a list of 136 individual food items or food clusters, which covered eight categories of food and beverages. For each individual food item or cluster, participants were asked to indicate how frequently their children consumed that food and the typical portion size.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • participants have 6-12 years old children

Exclusion Criteria

  • N.A.

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 6 Years

Maximum Age: 12 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • McGill University
  • Collaborator
    • Dalhousie University
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Laurette Dube, Professor – McGill University

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