As primary caregivers, parents are often believed to have a strong influence on children’s eating habits and behaviours. However, previous findings on parent-child resemblance in dietary intakes are mixed.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reviewed and assessed the degree of association and similarity between children’s and their parents’ dietary intake based on worldwide studies published since 1980. The meta-analysis is featured in the December issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“Contrary to popular belief, many studies from different countries, including the United States, have found a weak association between parent-child dietary intake,” said Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.
“This is likely because young people’s eating patterns are influenced by many complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role.
More attention should be given to the influence of the other players on children’s eating patterns such as that of schools, the local food environment and peer influence, government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment that is influenced by food production, distribution and advertising.”
He added, “Parents need to be better empowered to be good role models and help their children eat a healthy diet.”
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