Parental control over feeding and children's fruit and vegetable intake: how are they related?

J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Feb;105(2):227-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2004.11.006.


Objectives: To replicate the finding of a negative association between parental control and fruit and vegetable consumption in girls. To extend the investigation to boys and examine sex differences. To test the hypothesis that children's food neophobia explains this association.

Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire survey.

Measures: The questionnaire included items assessing parents' and children's fruit and vegetable intake, the Parental Control Index, and the Child Food Neophobia Scale.

Subjects: Parents of 564 2- to 6-year-old children, recruited from 22 London nursery schools.

Statistical analysis: Relationships between continuous variables were examined with Pearson product moment correlation coefficients. Sex differences were tested using independent sample t tests, and sex differences in correlations were assessed from their 95% confidence intervals. Parental control and children's food neophobia were entered into a hierarchical multiple regression to test the hypothesis that neophobia explains the association between parental control and children's fruit and vegetable intake.

Results: We replicated the finding that parental control was correlated with children's fruit and vegetable consumption and found no significant sex differences. Parental fruit and vegetable consumption and children's food neophobia were also strong predictors of children's fruit and vegetable consumption, and both were associated with parental control, suggesting that they might explain the association between control and intake. Controlling for children's food neophobia and parental intake reduced the association of parental control with children's fruit and vegetable intake to nonsignificance.

Conclusions: These findings emphasize the importance of systematic research about associations between parental feeding styles and children's dietary habits so that dietetics professionals can give parents sound advice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Fruit*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables*