Direct Sibling Influence on Eating Behavior in Early Childhood: Siblings as Role Models and Caregivers

Cara F. Ruggiero, Amy M. Moore, Jennifer S. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite the majority of US children having at least 1 sibling, little is known about how siblings influence eating behavior and obesity risk. This qualitative study explored mothers’ perceptions of older siblings’ influences on younger siblings’ eating behavior in the context of mealtimes in early childhood. Methods: A purposive subsample of mothers (n = 30) who participated in the Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories and SIBSIGHT studies completed retrospective semi-structured interviews designed to explore the implications of sibling influences on maternal feeding practices during infancy and toddlerhood. Interviews were conducted by video conference with mothers between January and March 2021. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and a qualitative content analysis approach was used to code and identify themes. Results: Two main themes were identified related to the influence of older siblings on younger siblings during feeding interactions: 1) Older siblings as positive role models for younger siblings and 2) Older siblings acted as caregivers for younger siblings. Younger siblings received encouragement at mealtimes to try new foods. Older siblings assisted their mothers in caregiving and feeding tasks in developmentally appropriate ways. Conclusions: Findings may help to elucidate the role of older siblings in shaping eating behavior and obesity risk of siblings in early childhood. Better understanding the role of siblings can aid in the development of novel interventions and anticipatory nutrition guidance in family-based clinical and community care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-123
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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