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What Matters Most – What Parents Model or What Parents Eat?


Vaughn, Amber E.; Martin, Chantel L.; & Ward, Dianne S. (2018). What Matters Most - What Parents Model or What Parents Eat?. Appetite, 126, 102-107. PMCID: PMC5971159


PURPOSE: Parents have a strong influence on their children's eating habits; however, researchers struggle to identify which food parenting practices to recommend. This study examined the influence of parents modeling of healthy eating ("parent role modeling") and parents' actual food intake ("parent dietary intake") on child diet quality, and explored whether these practices work together to influence children's diets.
METHODS: Baseline data from a larger intervention trial were used for this analysis. The sample included parents of preschool-age children from households with at least one overweight parent. The Comprehensive Feeding Practices Questionnaire was used to assess parent modeling of healthy eating ("healthy modeling"). Three days of dietary recalls were used to collect parents' report of their own intake and their children's intake (excluding food at child care). Associations between parent healthy modeling and parent intake of healthy and unhealthy foods were explored using Pearson correlations. Associations between parent healthy modeling and parent Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score on child HEI score were examined with linear regression. Additionally, the interaction between parent healthy modeling and HEI score on child HEI score was tested.
RESULTS: Parent healthy modeling was significantly correlated with parent intake of healthy foods. Linear regression showed a significant association between parent modeling and child HEI score, even after controlling for parent diet (β = 3.08, SE = 0.87, p < 0.001). Children whose parents had high parent healthy modeling scores had higher HEI scores (mean = 61.5 ± 10.4) regardless of parent HEI score. We did not find evidence that parent healthy modeling and diet quality interact to influence child diet quality.
CONCLUSIONS: Parents' healthy modeling is an important practice in influencing children's diet quality, possibly more so than the quality of parents' diets.


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Journal Article

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Vaughn, Amber E.
Martin, Chantel L.
Ward, Dianne S.