Public Health Nutrition

Hot topic – Childhood Obesity

Family- and school-based predictors of energy balance-related behaviours in children: a 6-year longitudinal study

Maïté Verloignea1 c1, Wendy Van Lippeveldea2, Lea Maesa2, Johannes Bruga3 and Ilse De Bourdeaudhuija1

a1 Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a2 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a3 Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Objective To examine family- and school-based predictors of breakfast consumption, soft drink consumption and physical activity (PA) and moderating effects of gender and socio-economic status (SES).

Design Longitudinal study (6-year follow-up), including a questionnaire about dietary and activity behaviour.

Setting Fifty-nine Flemish elementary schools.

Subjects Seven hundred and twenty-seven children (51·9 % girls, 51·9 % high SES, mean age 9·9 (sd 0·4) years at baseline).

Results Having breakfast together with parents (P < 0·001) at age 10 years related to more days of eating breakfast at age 16 years. More parental soft drink consumption (P = 0·04), less soft drink availability at home (P < 0·001) and less parental permissiveness (children received soft drinks from their parents whenever they asked for it and children could take soft drinks whenever they wanted; P = 0·02 and P = 0·001, respectively) at age 10 years related to less soft drink consumption at age 16 years. A more positive parental attitude towards PA (P = 0·009), more parental encouragement (P = 0·002) and a higher rating of PA's benefit ‘relaxing’ (P < 0·001) at age 10 years related to more PA at age 16 years. Gender and SES did not significantly moderate any of the associations.

Conclusions Only parental factors at age 10 years were associated with breakfast consumption, soft drink consumption and PA at age 16 years. An intervention programme at age 10 years with a strong focus on the modifiable parental factors might lead to healthy behaviour in the long term.

(Received January 27 2012)

(Revised June 22 2012)

(Accepted July 31 2012)

(Online publication September 19 2012)


  • Predictors;
  • Energy balance-related behaviours;
  • Children;
  • Family;
  • School


c1 Corresponding author: Email