A qualitative application of the Belsky Model to explore early care and education teachers’ mealtime history, beliefs, and interactions
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OBJECTIVE: Studies on factors associated with nutrition practices in early care and education settings often focus on sociodemographic and programmatic characteristics. This qualitative study adapted and applied Belsky's determinants of parenting model to inform a broader exploration of Early Care and Education Teachers (ECETs) practices. DESIGN: Qualitative cross-sectional study with ECETs. SETTING: The researchers interviewed ECETs in their communities across a Southern state. PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sampling was employed to recruit ECETs (n = 28) from Head Start or state-funded centers serving low-income families. PHENOMENON OF INTEREST: Developmental histories of ECETs regarding food and nutrition, beliefs about child nutrition, and teaching interactions related to food. ANALYSIS: Qualitative interviews were coded using a deductive content analysis approach. RESULTS: Three distinct interrelationships were observed across the themes. First, rules and routines regarding food and mealtime in the educators' childhood often aligned with educator beliefs and behaviors at meals in their classroom. Second, some ECETs described motivations to leave a healthy food legacy for children in their class. Finally, an experience of food insecurity appeared in narratives that also emphasized making sure children got enough through various strategies. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: The influence of ECET developmental histories and their related beliefs can be addressed through professional development and ongoing support. Future study should quantify model constructs in a larger sample and study their relationships over time.