Parental influences on dietary intake and weight status of children age 2 to 12 through household food rules and mealtime practices

Alison Winters Massie, The University of Texas School of Public Health


This dissertation examined parental influences on child dietary intake and weight of children age 2 to 12. The first study provided an overview of available evidence on the relation between parent control practices and child diet and weight by systematically reviewing current literature on this subject area. Findings from the review suggest that highly restrictive or pressuring parental behaviors are negatively associated with healthy dietary outcomes and weight of children. However, the evidence is mixed, and longitudinal studies are needed to further explore these associations. The remaining studies examined data from families in an ethnically diverse, low-income population in Texas. The second study explored the associations between parent food rules and dietary intake and weight. It was found that most food rules were positively associated with dietary intake of healthy foods or inversely associated with dietary intake of unhealthy foods. In addition, a higher number of parent reported rules was associated with healthier dietary intake, based on two different indices used to assess healthy food intake and unhealthy food intake. The final study examined evening meal practices in relation to child diet and weight. Findings show a positive association between healthy meal practices and healthy dietary intake, and a similar positive association between unhealthy meal practices and unhealthy child diet. Moreover, the eating index score is higher with each additional healthy practice that was reported. Though this data is cross-sectional, these findings suggest that diet quality could incrementally improve by incorporating multiple mealtime practices. Further research is needed to understand directionality of these associations. Based on the current findings, parents can be advised to implement food rules and healthy meal practices, as these were found to be positively associated with healthy food intake. Because setting parent food rules and family meal practices can be recommended in a way that is specific yet understandable, this offers parents tangible strategies for aiming to improve their child’s dietary health.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health|Individual & family studies

Recommended Citation

Massie, Alison Winters, "Parental influences on dietary intake and weight status of children age 2 to 12 through household food rules and mealtime practices" (2016). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10131764.