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The role of parents’ sense of coherence in irregular meal pattern and food intake pattern of children aged 10–11 in Finland


Background: Among adults, a stronger sense of coherence (SOC) seems to promote a better coping with strain and is associated with healthier behaviours, including eating patterns. The parents’ SOC may also have a wider effect on the health behaviour of their children. The aim of this study is to determine whether there are associations between parents’ SOC and the eating patterns of their children and if this can be explained by mediating factors.

Methods: Cross-sectional. In 2006, 1268 (response rate 79%) 10- and 11-year-old children in southern Finland, in a classroom situation, filled in a questionnaire assessing meal pattern and food frequency intake. Parents, 816 (response rate 64%), filled in a questionnaire assessing SOC (13 items) and eating patterns. Matching data were found from 772 child–parent pairs. χ2 tests, factor analysis, univariate analysis of variance and logistic regression analyses were used as statistical methods.

Results: A weaker parental SOC was associated with children’s irregular meal pattern (p = 0.004), more frequent intake of energy-rich foods (p = 0.002) and less frequent intake of nutrient-rich foods (p = 0.051). Mediating factors, such as availability and accessibility of fruit and vegetables at home, parent’s nutrition knowledge, parents’ own fruit and vegetable intake and an irregular meal pattern, explained the association between parents’ SOC and children’s intake of nutrient-dense foods, but not the association with energy-rich foods.

Conclusions: Parents’ weaker SOC was associated with children’s unhealthier eating patterns. More research is needed on the associations between parents’ SOC and other health-related behaviours in their children.

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