Student Blog: “Help! My child’s a neophobe!”

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University) introduces a blog by a current Staffordshire Psychology & Child Development Student:

Sharing the findings of research in psychology is important. To develop the skills required for this, our third year BSc Psychology and Child Development students have been writing informational blogs aimed at parents. These have been completed as part of a series of tasks designed to develop their ability to share psychological research findings in an informative and engaging way. The work below was written by current student Carol Ashley.

Help! My child’s a neophobe!

It’s official, I am a failure as a mother, I have raised a food neophobe, albeit unwittingly. Apparently, my child’s road to ruin began when she was just 14 months old. Researchers at Queensland University have indicated that the type of foods introduced at this age can determine whether or not a child will be a fussy eater (the neophobe in question) by the time they reach the (very precise) age of 3.7 years.

The 2016 study speaks grandly about “non-core foods” by which I’m assuming they mean the custard creams I gave her (I was trying to finish the ironing). However, on a serious note, I realise I may have been slightly lax when it came to introducing new vegetables and occasionally resorted to the fast food option.


The research points out the difference between fruit and vegetables never having been offered rather than actually being refused. My daughter balked at her first taste of broccoli and turned up her nose at other vegetables too. Fruit was a different story, she liked every type I gave to her and, in my defence, she ate a lot more fruit than the dreaded non-core foods with their saturated fats, added sugars and salt. Nevertheless, the study suggests that being introduced to different vegetables at 14 months a child would later like more vegetables and fruit, yet eating fruit may not mean they will like more vegetables – still with me? Interestingly the research found no connection between the content of the diet with a toddler’s BMI score, but don’t be fooled – this could affect children as they get older.

As is usually the case there is another school of thought that restricting a child’s diet is counter-productive. In 2014, Rollins, and his colleagues suggested that there may be a link between inherited and environmental influences in the emergence of the fussy eater. So is it my fault that my daughter is partial to the odd chicken nugget or fish finger, has my horror of the “golden arches” and the eerie clown lit an unquenchable flame? Or could it be inherited from me? I cannot look a Brussels sprout in the eye!

Can this pattern be reversed? Well, Webber (2010) states that it takes 8-15 attempts before taste buds become accustomed to flavours, so armed with my trusty steam cooker, I am determined that at the grand age of 3.7 years my tiny neophobe will learn that broccoli is not the root of all evil.

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