When I was a teacher, a common gripe among the staff was that the parent’s “weren’t doing their job” at home and how were “we,” the teachers supposed to make up for students whose parents didn’t read to them or encourage them to do their homework. This ongoing blame game ranged from discussions of reading ability, to discipline, to food. We often think that the home is where habits for a healthy life, or a disciplined student, or a physically fit individual begin and end. A new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pokes a hole in our teacher’s lounge argument, showing that the relationship between dietary intake of parents and their children is weak, grows weaker with age and is growing weaker over time.
The study looked at parent-child dietary studies from different countries, including the U.S. over the past 30 years and found that across different countries, with similar and different methods, the relationship was weak. What does this mean? Does it mean that parents have no influence over what their children eat, and the type of eaters they become as they grow up? No. Individuals have a complex relationship with food and children are no different. Parents are a part of the relationship, but this study shows they are only a small part of what determines what and how we eat. It also shows that this relationship is becoming less strong as our society progresses. The weakening relationship could exist for many reasons, including: the growing independence of children, changing parenting styles, changes in our food system, increases in the amount of working mothers or changes in our home and social environments. An anecdotal article about award winning chefs and their kids from the Baltimore Sun recently, would attest to parent’s lack of influence. In the article, even James Beard award winning Chefs lunchbox concoctions can’t compete with lunchables. Read More >