Background

The relative reinforcing value of food (RRVfood), or motivation to eat versus alternative activities, predicts obesity among children and adults, with limited research measuring RRVfood in preschoolers. We aimed to validate a concurrent RRVfood measure in which preschoolers can work to earn preferred snacks and/or time reading with a parent. After initial measure development, we: 1) administered a survey to identify developmentally-appropriate snack choices, and 2) refined and assessed validity of our RRV paradigm.

Methods

An online survey was administered to identify 6 snacks that were well-liked and served at least sometimes. Parents of 4-to-5-year-old children (n=102) reported on liking and frequency for 36 snacks using Likert scales. Currently 4-to-5-year-old children (n=26 to date; 53.9% boys, 5.0 + 0.6 years) are completing our lab-based paradigm assessing the RRVfood vs. time reading with a parent, with snack choices offered to children during the task informed by survey results.

Results

A priori criteria (e.g., >75% liking and <10% reporting never having the snack) were used to arrive at a subset of 7 snacks, which were reduced to 6 feasible choices: potato chips, chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, fudge-striped cookies, pretzels, and fish-shaped crackers. In our ongoing study using these snack choices, RRVfood and BMI-for-age z-scores are positively associated, supporting convergent validity of the RRV paradigm (r=0.42, p=.03). No parent in this study reported that his or her child never has access to the 6 selected snacks.

Conclusions

Results from our ongoing study support validity of this RRVfood task and use of snacks that are well-liked and relatively familiar. Two weeks of planned data collection remain; full validation study results will be presented.