Multivariate analysis of diet among three-year-old children and associations with socio-demographic characteristics. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC) Study Team

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;54(1):73-80. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600896.


Study objective: The study of the whole diet in combination rather than the consumption of individual food items or the intake of specific nutrients could be enlightening. This has been previously performed using principal components analysis (PCA) on adult diets but not on those of children.

Design: The frequency of consumption of a range of food items was recorded for 10,139 3-y-old children by their mothers using self-completion postal questionnaires. These children form part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC).

Methods: PCA was performed to identify individual dietary types which were then related to various socio-economic and demographic characteristics.

Results: Four distinct dietary components were obtained explaining 23.5% of the total variation in the sample, and the socio-demographic characteristics of the sample were related to them. The first represented a diet based on convenience foods and was associated with younger, less educated mothers and the presence of older siblings. The second was associated with a high consumption of foods currently considered to be healthy and was particularly related to vegetarian mothers and higher education levels. The third component described the established British 'meat and two veg' diet and was associated with girls and children with no older siblings, while the fourth had high loadings for snack and finger foods and was related to socially advantaged conditions and the presence of older siblings.

Conclusions: Identifiable groups of mothers were associated with feeding their child each of the four dietary types, supporting the hypothesis that social, demographic and lifestyle factors relating to the mother have an influence on the early eating patterns of children. This analysis will form a basis for the future study of various childhood outcomes including growth, health and development.

Sponsorship: University of Bristol European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) 54, 73-80

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet Records
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet* / economics
  • Diet* / statistics & numerical data
  • England
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires