Department of Psychology pres.
Clinical Brown Bag: Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale for Children
Lindsey Parnarouskis, Clinical Graduate Student
Highly processed foods (with added fats and/or refined carbohydrates) may trigger an addictive-like process, including withdrawal when these foods are reduced. Withdrawal is marked by affective, cognitive, and physical symptoms that may hinder dietary change. A recently developed scale of highly processed food withdrawal in adults (ProWS) provides evidence for this construct. Children commonly consume highly processed foods, but no measures currently exist to examine highly processed food withdrawal in children. The purpose of this study was to develop a measure (ProWS-C) to assess for signs of highly processed food withdrawal in children.
Parents who had recently attempted to reduce their child’s highly processed food consumption were recruited through an online crowdsourcing platform. 304 parents (56.9% mothers) reported on their 3-11-year-old children (63.8% male). The ProWS-C was designed to reflect parents’ observations of child behavior. Internal consistency and validity were evaluated using the Dimensional Yale Food Addiction Scale Version 2.0 for Children (dYFAS-C 2.0.), Children’s Food Neophobia Scale-Modified (CFNS), and body mass index (BMI) silhouettes.
Exploratory factor analysis revealed a one-factor structure with 21 items (α=0.94). The ProWS-C demonstrated convergent validity with more child food addiction symptoms (r=.55, p<.001) and higher child BMI (r=.24, p<.001) and discriminant validity with child food neophobia (r=-.10, p=.08). The ProWS-C was associated with less success in reducing child highly processed food intake independent of child addictive-like eating and BMI (p=.001).
The ProWS-C provides preliminary evidence for highly processed food withdrawal in children and appears to be a psychometrically sound tool for assessing parent-reported withdrawal symptoms in children. Illuminating specific challenges families face when reducing highly processed foods may improve parents’ ability to help their children make sustainable dietary changes.
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