Background: The association between socioeconomic position and diet in early childhood has mainly been addressed based on maternal education and household income. We aimed to assess the influence of a variety of social factors from different socio-ecological levels (parents, household and child-care) on multi-time point dietary patterns identified from 2 to 5 y.
Method: This study included 974 children from the French EDEN mother-child cohort. Two multi-time point dietary patterns were derived in a previous study: they correspond to consistent exposures to either core- or non-core foods across 2, 3 and 5 y and were labelled "Guidelines" and "Processed, fast-foods". The associations of various social factors collected during pregnancy (age, education level) or at 2-y follow-up (mother's single status, occupation, work commitments, household financial disadvantage, presence of older siblings and child-care arrangements) with each of the two dietary patterns, were assessed by multivariable linear regression analysis.
Results: The adherence to a diet close to "Guidelines" was positively and independently associated with both maternal and paternal education levels. The adherence to a diet consistently composed of processed and fast-foods was essentially linked with maternal variables (younger age and lower education level), household financial disadvantage, the presence of older sibling (s) and being cared for at home by someone other than the mother.
Conclusions: Multiple social factors operating at different levels (parents, household, and child-care) were found to be associated with the diet of young children. Different independent predictors were found for each of the two longitudinal dietary patterns, suggesting distinct pathways of influence. Our findings further suggest that interventions promoting healthier dietary choices for young children should involve both parents and take into account not only household financial disadvantage but also maternal age, family size and options for child-care.