Document Type


Publication Date




The prevalence of obesity among Latino children is alarmingly high, when compared to non-Latino White children. Low-income Latino parents living in urban areas, even if they are well-educated, face obstacles that shape familial health behaviors. This study used qualitative methods to explore parents’ experiences in providing meals and opportunities to play to their children aged 2 to 5 years. In contrast to most prior studies, this study examined perceptions of familial behaviors among both mothers and fathers.


An ecological framework for exploring the associations of parental feeding behaviors and children’s weight informed this study. An interview guide was developed to explore parents’ experiences and perceptions about children’s eating and physical activity and administered to six focus groups in a community-based organization in the Mission District of San Francisco. Transcripts were coded and analyzed. Twenty seven mothers and 22 fathers of Latino children ages 2 to 5 participated.


Mothers, fathers, and couples reported that employment, day care, neighborhood environments and community relationships were experienced, and perceived as obstacles to promoting health behavior among their children, including drinking water instead of soda and participating in organized playtime with other preschool-age children.


Results from this study suggest that the parents’ demographic, social and community characteristics influence what and how they feed their children, as well as how often and the types of opportunities they provide for physical activity, providing further evidence that an ecological framework is useful for guiding research with both mothers and fathers. Mothers and fathers identified numerous community and society-level constraints in their urban environments. The results point to the importance of standardized work hours, resources for day care providers, clean and safe streets and parks, strong community relationships, and reduced access to sugar-sweetened beverages in preventing the development of obesity in preschool-age Latino children.


Published by Biomed Central

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.