Influences on the diet quality of pre-school children: importance of maternal psychological characteristics

Megan Jarman, Hazel M Inskip, Georgia Ntani, Cyrus Cooper, Janis Baird, Sian M Robinson, Mary E Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that maternal psychological profiles relate to children's quality of diet.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. Mothers provided information on their health-related psychological factors and aspects of their child's mealtime environment. Children's diet quality was assessed using an FFQ from which weekly intakes of foods and a diet Z-score were calculated. A high score described children with a better quality diet. Cluster analysis was performed to assess grouping of mothers based on psychological factors. Mealtime characteristics, describing how often children ate while sitting at a table or in front of the television, their frequency of takeaway food consumption, maternal covert control and food security, and children's quality of diet were examined, according to mothers' cluster membership.

SUBJECTS: Mother-child pairs (n 324) in the Southampton Initiative for Health. Children were aged 2-5 years.

SETTING: Hampshire, UK.

RESULTS: Two main clusters were identified. Mothers in cluster 1 had significantly higher scores for all psychological factors than mothers in cluster 2 (all P < 0.001). Clusters were termed 'more resilient' and 'less resilient', respectively. Children of mothers in the less resilient cluster ate meals sitting at a table less often (P = 0.03) and watched more television (P = 0.01). These children had significantly poorer-quality diets (β = -0.61, 95% CI -0.82, -0.40, P ≤ 0.001). This association was attenuated, but remained significant after controlling for confounding factors that included maternal education and home/mealtime characteristics (P = 0.006).

CONCLUSIONS: The study suggests that mothers should be offered psychological support as part of interventions to improve children's quality of diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2001-2010
Number of pages10
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number11
Early online date20 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

The final publication is available via Cambridge Journals Online at


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet/standards
  • Diet Records
  • Fast Foods
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Mothers/psychology
  • Nutritive Value
  • Parenting
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television
  • United Kingdom


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