'Because I Said So' Doesn't Cut It

Parents have little influence on children's eating habits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Parents are often thought to hold tremendous sway over their children's eating habits, but a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health contradicts that conception.

Previous studies found mixed results regarding how much influence parents wield over what their kids eat, but these latest findings illustrate a weak correlation between parent-child dietary intake.

“This is likely because young people’s eating patterns are influenced by many complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role," said Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.

Wang said more attention should be given to other influences on children’s eating patterns, including schools, local food environments, peer influence, government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment influenced by food production, distribution and advertising.

Researchers systematically reviewed and analyzed related studies published in different countries between 1980 and 2009, comparing parent-child diets in different types of parent-child pairs (i.e., mother-daughter vs. father-son), world regions and over time. The study found evidence that parent-child diet correlations have become weaker over time.

“More research is needed to study the parent-child resemblance in the diet, the differences in the association between population groups, and the determinants," said researchers.

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Review Date: 
December 9, 2010
Last Updated:
December 10, 2010