Background: The prevalence of obesity among Australian pre-school children is a major concern with links to poor health outcomes. One contributing factor is excess energy intake. Sugar-sweetened beverages are energy-dense, nutrient-poor, readily available and have been implicated in the increasing prevalence of obesity. Furthermore, preschooler beverage consumption may develop into dietary habits that track into adulthood. There is little research on factors influencing parents’ decision-making when serving beverages to their preschoolers, or on mothers’ perceptions of preschooler’s beverages. The aim of this study was to explore mothers’ perceptions of commonly consumed preschooler beverages. Methods: The Repertory Grid Technique and the Laddering Technique methodologies were utilized in interviews with 28 mothers from Melbourne, Australia, to explore beverage perceptions. Results: A large number of diverse perceptual categories (‘constructs’) (n
= 22) about beverages were elicited, demonstrating the complexity of mothers’ perceptions when making beverage choices for their preschoolers. The five most common categories were related to health, sugar, dairy, packaging, and additives. Thematic analysis of responses from the laddering method identified three major themes: concerns about the types of beverages mothers would like to provide their preschoolers, the healthiness of a beverage, and the sugar content. Conclusions: Mothers’ perceptions of beverages are sophisticated and need to be included in the design of health communication strategies by health promoters and government agencies to influence mothers’ beverage selections for their preschoolers.
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