A new article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated whether maternal dietary habits were strong predictors of the diet of their adult offspring.
The notion that caregivers and parents serve as strong influences on the dietary habits of their children is widespread, however, the bulk of studies have involved small sample sizes. Most of the research conducted on this topic has involved samples from the United States. Ultimately, thorough reviews of existing studies investigating the relationship between parental and child dietary habits have displayed inconclusive results. Specifically, the similarity between maternal and young adult offspring food intake by their living situation is an area that has not been studied. To address the paucity of research on this topic, researchers followed a cohort of 7223 (mother-child pairs) mothers and their offspring for 21 years. Data was collected at multiple time points (when the children reached certain ages); dietary data was obtained via the distribution of the Cancer Council of Victoria’s self-administered questionnaires.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, mothers who provided operational dietary information tended to have increased educational attainment, be married, be overweight, refrain from smoking, have middle incomes, and self-identify as moderate or light alcohol drinkers. The conduction of statistical analyses revealed that correlations in terms of dietary habits were generally weak between mothers and children (r=0.12-0.29, r can be defined as a statistic that measures the strength and direction of an association between two variables). The variable of the offspring’s living conditions (residing in the parental home or outside of it) was also taken into consideration when performing further statistical analyses. Results indicated that the connection or similarity between maternal and offspring dietary habits was stronger among female and male offspring who lived in the parental home.
Mainly, the associations with regards to the similarity between maternal and young adult offspring dietary habits were quite insignificant and differed by food groups, living arrangements, and some nutrients (such as vitamin E). These results are in line with previous research that also suggests that factors other than the living arrangements of young adults and the diets of their parents robustly influence their food choices.
Written By: Melissa Booker