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Do children and their parents eat a similar diet? Resemblance in child and parental dietary intake: systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Y Wang1,
  2. M A Beydoun1,2,
  3. J Li1,
  4. Y Liu1,
  5. L A Moreno3
  1. 1Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2National Institute on Aging, NIA/NIH/IRP, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, University School of Health Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Youfa Wang, Center for Human Nutrition, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; ywang{at}


Objectives Parents are believed to have a strong influence on children's eating behaviours. However, previous findings on child–parent resemblance in dietary intakes are mixed. We systematically reviewed and meta-analysed the association (correlations) based on published studies.

Methods We searched related studies published since 1980 and found 24 studies meeting inclusion criteria for review and 15 for meta-regression analysis. We compared the associations between parent–child pairs, nutrients, over time and by dietary assessment method.

Results Most studies were based on small samples. Overall, they suggest a moderate or weak association, but findings varied remarkably. Our meta-analysis showed that average Fisher's transformed correlations were 0.20 (95% CI 0.13 to 0.28) for fat (% energy); for energy, 0.21 (0.18 to 0.24). The correlations varied by parent–child pairs, dietary assessment and countries. Food frequency questionnaires or mixed approaches yielded lower correlation than 24-h recalls or food records. Child self-reported intakes showed weaker correlation and better methodology quality showed stronger correlation in fat intake (% energy), which also became weaker over time.

Conclusions Overall, the resemblance is weak, and it varied considerably across studies, nutrients, foods and parent–child pairs.

  • Child
  • parent
  • diet
  • resemblance
  • association
  • review
  • meta-analysis
  • child health
  • international health
  • nutrition

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  • Funding The study was supported in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, 1R03HD058077-01A1, R03HD058077-01A1S1), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK, R01DK81335-01A1), and the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.