The relative reinforcing value (RRV) of food captures individual differences in the motivation to eat and is associated with weight status among infants, children, and adults. Currently, there is no concurrent measure of the RRV of food versus a non-food alternative for 4-to-5-year-old children. The present study aimed to develop and validate a measure of the RRV of food versus time spent interacting with a parent in the context of reading among 4-to-5-year-old children. The first phase of the study involved an online survey. Parents of 4-to-5 year olds (n = 102) reported their children's consumption frequency and liking for thirty-six snack foods. A priori criteria were used to identify snacks that were well-liked and served at least sometimes for use in the subsequent laboratory study. Then, a validation study was conducted in the laboratory to examine the construct validity of the finalized RRV task. Thirty-one parent-child dyads completed a laboratory visit, in which children's RRV of food versus time spent reading with a parent was measured concurrently on a progressive ratio reward schedule. Linear regression was used to assess validity of the task. Children's RRV of food positively and significantly predicted BMI z-scores among children with complete data (B = 0.41, p < 0.05, n = 28). Maximum schedules reached for food also positively and significantly predicted BMI z-scores (B = 0.30, p < 0.05). The relationship between maximum schedules reached for parent-child reading and BMI z-scores was in the expected direction, but this relationship was non-significant. Results support the validity and feasibility of the RRV paradigm used in the present study. Future research could continue to examine the measurement properties of this paradigm, as well as the potential for positive parent-child interactions to serve as a novel alternative to food.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nutrition and Dietetics