Parents as Role Models: Associations Between Parent and Young Children’s Weight, Dietary Intake, and Physical Activity in a Minority Sample

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Objective We examined the association between parent and child fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake, physical activity (PA), and body mass index in an ethnic minority and low-income sample. Methods The study sample consisted of 86 children ages 5–7 years (80% Hispanic) and their parents. Three parent health variables (healthy weight, recommended F&V servings per day, and recommended weekly PA) were used to create a healthy role model index. Associations between the parent index and corresponding child health behaviors and weight were examined. Results Most parents (53.5%) were not healthy role models, 30.2% were limited healthy role models, 16.3% were good role models, and none were excellent role models; most parents and children did not meet guidelines for healthy weight, F&V intake, and PA. Parents who scored higher on the index were more likely to have children with higher levels of F&V. Furthermore, parents who had a healthy weight were 3.7 times more likely to have a child who had a healthy weight. Additionally, parents who were consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day were 10 times more likely to have children who were also consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day compared to parents who were not consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day. Conclusions for Practice These findings suggest the important role of parental modeling of healthy behaviors to their young children among minority/low-income families. Parents may serve as an important mechanism of change for children’s health status by increasing their own healthy lifestyle behaviors.