Public Health Nutrition

Research Papers

Parental and self-reported dietary and physical activity habits in pre-school children and their socio-economic determinants

Mercedes Sotos-Prietoa1a2 c1, Gloria Santos-Beneita1a2, Stuart Pococka1a3, Juliana Redondoa1, Valentín Fustera1a4 and José L Peñalvoa1

a1 Department of Epidemiology, Atherothrombosis and Imaging, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), 28029 Madrid, Spain

a2 International SHE Foundation, Barcelona, Spain

a3 Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

a4 Department of Cardiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA


Objective To assess the agreement between self-reported and parent-reported dietary and physical activity habits in children; and to evaluate the socio-economic determinants of healthier habits (Mediterranean diet and physical activity) among children.

Design Cross-sectional analysis of children recruited to a cluster-randomized controlled trial (Program SI!). Information about children’s and parents’ dietary and physical activity habits was obtained through validated questionnaires (Program SI! questionnaires, Kidmed, Krece Plus and Predimed scores).

Setting Twenty-four schools in Madrid, Spain.

Subjects Children (n 2062) aged 3–5 years and their parents (n 1949).

Results There was positive agreement between parental- and self-reporting for three of the six children’s habits examined. Parents’ dietary and physical activity patterns were associated with those of their children. The main determinants of higher scores in children were higher parental age, the mother’s scores, Spanish origin and higher awareness of human health (P<0·005). Children from parents with a low educational level had lower odds for scoring positively on items such as using olive oil (OR=0·23; 95 % CI 0·13, 0·41) and not skipping breakfast (OR=0·36; 95 % CI 0·23, 0·55), but higher odds for meeting the recommendations for consuming pulses (OR=1·71; 95 % CI 1·14, 2·55). Other habits being influenced by parental socio-economic status included the consumption of vegetables, fish, nuts, avoidance of fast food, and consumption of bakery products for breakfast.

Conclusions Children’s habits may be influenced by their parents’ health awareness and other socio-economic characteristics. These findings suggest that intervention strategies, even in very young children, should also target parents in order to achieve maximum success.

(Received August 21 2013)

(Revised February 11 2014)

(Accepted February 14 2014)

(Online publication April 03 2014)


  • Healthy behaviours;
  • Pre-school children;
  • Parental education;
  • Socio-economic status


c1 Corresponding author: Email;