Influence of parental attitudes in the development of children eating behaviour

Br J Nutr. 2008 Feb;99 Suppl 1:S22-5. doi: 10.1017/S0007114508892471.


The present paper is a review of available data on effects of parental feeding attitudes and styles on child nutritional behaviour. Food preferences develop from genetically determined predispositions to like sweet and salty flavours and to dislike bitter and sour tastes. There is evidence for existence of some innate, automatic mechanism that regulate appetite. However, from birth genetic predispositions are modified by experience. There are mechanisms of taste development: mere exposure, medicine effect, flavour learning, flavour nutrient learning. Parents play a pivotal role in the development of their child's food preferences and energy intake, with research indicating that certain child feeding practices, such as exerting excessive control over what and how much children eat, may contribute to childhood overweight. Mothers are of particular interest on children's eating behaviour, as they have been shown to spend significantly more time than fathers in direct interactions with their children across several familial situations.A recent paper describes two primary aspects of control: restriction, which involves restricting children's access to junk foods and restricting the total amount of food, and pressure, which involves pressuring children to eat healthy foods (usually fruits and vegetables) and pressuring to eat more in general. The results showed significant correlations between parent and child for reported nutritional behaviour like food intake, eating motivations, and body dis- and satisfaction. Parents create environments for children that may foster the development of healthy eating behaviours and weight, or that may promote overweight and aspects of disordered eating. In conclusion positive parental role model may be a better method for improving a child's diet than attempts at dietary control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*