Influence of grandparents on eating behaviors of young children in Chinese three-generation families

Appetite. 2007 May;48(3):377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.10.004. Epub 2006 Dec 12.


Aim: To investigate how grandparents influence their young grandchildren's eating behaviors in Chinese three-generation families.

Methods: This qualitative study used semi-structured in-depth interviews with 12 parents (3 male and 9 female) and 11 grandparents (4 male and 7 female) in Beijing, China.

Results: Three domains emerged in this study: (1) grandparents were the primary caretakers of children in the three-generation families. They played an important role in planning and cooking family meals; (2) grandparents' attitudes influenced young children's nutrition and eating habits. They held the belief that children being heavy at a young age would assure that they had a good nutrition status and would become tall in the future. They showed a tendency towards urging the children to eat more meals and larger portions at served meals; (3) grandparents used food as an educational and emotional tool. They shaped the behavior of their grandchildren and expressed love and caring through food.

Conclusions: Grandparents were dominant in shaping children's eating behavior in some three-generation families in Chinese urban areas. Nutrition education involving grandparents is a potential framework for developing a healthy dietary behavior in young children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / psychology
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • China
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*