Dads at Mealtimes

Dads at Mealtimes: Exploring fathers’ food parenting, feeding roles and experiences in tough times

Our Vision

Enable children to achieve optimal growth and nutritional status through supporting family


Limited research focus on the roles of fathers in mealtime and child feeding. Families struggling financially or worry about putting food on the table might change what and how they feed their kids.  This might affect children’s health and nutrition.

Our Mission

What: To explore fathers’ food parenting, feeding roles and experiences in tough times

How: We will work with fathers to understand their roles and experiences in feeding, and create strategies and resources to support fathers

Who: Australian fathers or male caregivers with a child aged 6 months to 5 years


Why is this important?

The first 2000 days from conception to five years have been identified as a critical window of opportunity to support child growth and development. Parental feeding practices play a critical role in shaping children’s eating behaviours, nutritional intake, and growth. Responsive feeding involves reciprocal attentive feeding practices between the caregiver and the child that recognises and responds to children’s hunger and satiety cues.

Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children. Yet research into the food parenting to date has largely focused on mothers, little is known about fathers’ perspectives in feeding particularly when families are doing a bit tough in Australia. Two circumstances may have particular significance for families living with disadvantage – food insecurity and household chaos. Food insecurity is defined as the limited financial, physical, and social access to food of sufficient quality and quantity for a healthy and active life. Household chaos is characterised by disorganisation and instability in the family environement. These factors may influence fathers’ feeding practices and their roles in feeding.


What are the benefits of this project?

  1. Recognise the role fathers play in their families and the care of their children
  2. Understand dads’ experiences at mealtimes and in child feeding, particularly when times are tough
  3. Work with fathers to develop resources and strategies to support fathers with child eating
  4. Inform infant feeding and parent support programs that promote optimal growth and nutrition in children

How are we doing this study?

Our project will be completed in three phases. These are some of the research activities we have planned for 2022 – 2023.

Online Survey

(Phase 1)

In-depth Interview

(Phase 2)

An online survey will be distributed to

fathers to collect information about the family

household food and money situation,

and fathers’ feeding practices.

Interviews will be conducted to explore

fathers’ roles, facilitators and barriers in

child feeding and at mealtimes.

Co-design workshops

(Phase 3)

Workshops will be organised with fathers to

co-design engagement strategies to support

fathers’ participation in child feeding studies.

What are we hoping to find?

This exploratory study will contribute to the knowledge of fathers’ food parenting, their perception, and experiences in feeding particularly when times are tough. Findings from this project will inform the development of early child feeding interventions and programs through acknowledging the lived experience of fathers. Fathers can be better supported to adopt responsive feeding practices that promote healthy eating behaviours and growth among children.

Contact Us

If you are interested in hearing more about the project, or would like to be involved, we would love to hear from you:

Phone:   07 3069 7308

    Chief Investigators