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Dietary habits and children's family lives

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Abstract Purpose 

To investigate associations between ‘less healthy eating’ and ‘unhealthy snacking’ at age 11, and family life (family structure, meals and maternal employment status) together with potential socio-economic confounders and gender. Methods 

Children participated in a school-based survey, questionnaires also being completed by parents. Analyses were based on those with complete data, weighted to account for bias in return of parental questionnaires (N = 2146). Data from a dietary inventory, questions on food choice and snacks were used to classify ‘less healthy eating’ and ‘unhealthy snacking’. Results 

‘Less healthy eating’ (57%) and ‘unhealthy snacking’ (32%) were associated with greater deprivation, fewer maternal qualifications and being male. Compared with children of full-time homemakers, the likelihood of ‘less healthy eating’ was reduced among those whose mothers worked part-time (this effect remaining after socio-economic adjustment), full-time (effect removed after adjustment), or were unemployed, sick or disabled (effect emerging after adjustment). ‘Unhealthy snacking’ was not related to maternal employment, and neither measure was associated with family structure or daily meals. Conclusions 

There was no evidence that family structure or meals were associated with children's diets, although maternal employment had a positive association. Contrasting with the size of these effects, relationships between diet and socio-economic status were strong.

Keywords: children; diet; family; maternal employment; socio-economic

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-04-01

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