John Hopkins Bloomberg Generally parents may be considered as the primary caregivers creating a strong influence on children’s eating behaviors. Well it appears that parent-child resemblance in dietary intakes is mixed. Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health claim that parents have a very limited influence on children’s eating habits.

During the study, scientists systematically reviewed relevant studies published in several countries from 1980 to 2009. Association between parent-child pairs’ dietary intakes was compared by type of parent-child pairs, like mother-daughter vs. father-son, world regions as well as dietary assessment methods, and over time. Significant differences were seemingly observed in parent-child dietary intake resemblance, across nutrients and dietary assessment approaches.

“Contrary to popular belief, many studies from different countries, including the United States, have found a weak association between parent-child dietary intake. This is likely because young people’s eating patterns are influenced by many complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role. More attention should be given to the influence of the other players on children’s eating patterns such as that of schools, the local food environment and peer influence, government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment that is influenced by food production, distribution and advertising. Parents need to be better empowered to be good role models and help their children eat a healthy diet,” said Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.

The meta-analysis concluded that parents influence on eating habits may have become weaker over time. As compared to non-European countries, parent-child correlations in consumption of energy and total fat are possibly weaker within the United States. The study findings supposedly aid in understanding factors that affect children’s dietary intake patterns and provide useful guidelines to develop effective intervention programs for encouraging healthy eating among youth. Additional investigations can be undertaken to examine the parent-child resemblance in the diet, variations within the link between population groups, as well as the determinants.

The study is published in the December issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.