Parents may not have that much influence over kids’ eating habits

Parents are instructed to cook healthful foods, hold regular mealtimes and limit snacking in order to raise healthy, normal-weight children. Certainly parental influence -- and the examples parents set -- matters. But a new study suggests that parents are fighting many other forces in trying to help their children eat healthful diets.

A study published Wednesday reviewed 24 studies on parents’ influence on their children’s eating habits. The studies covered populations around the world from 1980 to 2009. The authors, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that parental influence appeared to have grown weaker over time. Parent-child correlations regarding caloric intake and fat consumption are weaker in the United States compared with other countries.

The lack of parental influence “is likely because young people’s eating patterns are influenced by many complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role,” said Dr. Youfa Wang, the lead author of the study. “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.”


The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.


TV and children: Ads for fast food are up, ads for sweets and cookies are down.

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