Prevalence of childhood obesity and its complications have increased world-wide. Parental status may be associated with children's health outcomes including their eating habits, body weight and blood cholesterol. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 1988-1994, provided a unique opportunity for matching parents to children enabling analyses of joint demographics, racial differences and health indicators. Specifically, the NHANES III data, 1988-1994, of 219 households with single-parents and 780 dual-parent households were analyzed as predictors for primary outcome variables of children's Body Mass Index (BMI), dietary nutrient intakes and blood cholesterol. Children of single-parent households were significantly (p < 0.01) more overweight than children of dual-parent households. Total calorie and saturated fatty acid intakes were higher among children of single-parent households than dual-parent households (p < 0.05). On average, Black children were more overweight (p < 0.04) than children of other races. The study results implied a strong relationship between single-parent status and excess weight in children. Further studies are needed to explore the dynamics of single-parent households and its influence on childhood diet and obesity. Parental involvement in the development of school- and community-based obesity prevention programs are suggested for effective health initiatives. Economic constraints and cultural preferences may be communicated directly by family involvement in these much needed public health programs.
Keywords: BMI; NHANES; blood-cholesterol; childhood obesity; children’s diet; single-parent households.