Background Social patterning of dietary-related diseases may partly be explained by population disparities in children’s diets. This study aimed to determine which early life socioeconomic factors best predict dietary trajectories across childhood.
Methods For waves 2–6 of the Baby (B) Cohort (ages 2–3 to 10–11 years) and waves 1–6 of the Kindergarten (K) Cohort (ages 4–5 to 14–15 years) of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, we constructed trajectories of dietary scores and of empirically derived dietary patterns. Dietary scores, based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines, summed children’s consumption frequencies of seven groups of foods or drinks over the last 24 hours. Dietary patterns at each wave were derived using factor analyses of 12–16 food or drink items. Using multinomial logistic regression analyses, we examined associations of baseline single (parental education, remoteness area, parental employment, income, food security and home ownership) and composite (socioeconomic position and neighbourhood disadvantage) factors with adherence to dietary trajectories.
Results All dietary trajectory outcomes across both cohorts showed profound gradients by composite socioeconomic position but not by neighbourhood disadvantage. For example, odds for children in the lowest relative to highest socioeconomic position quintile being in the ‘never healthy’ relative to the ‘always healthy’ score trajectory were OR=16.40, 95% CI 9.40 to 28.61 (B Cohort). Among the single variables, only parental education consistently predicted dietary trajectories.
Conclusion Child dietary trajectories vary profoundly by family socioeconomic position. If causal, reducing dietary inequities may require researching underlying pathways, tackling socioeconomic inequities and targeting health promoting interventions to less educated families.
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Contributors All authors formulated the research questions. CEG designed the research, with input from FKM, JAK and MW, conducted the research and analysed the data, with supervision from FKM, JAK and MW and wrote the article, with input from FKM, JAK and MW. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript. MW is the guarantor. All authors had full access to all of the data and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Funding Authors of this work were supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (FKM: Early Career Fellowship 1037449 and Career Development Fellowship 1111160; MW: Senior Research Fellowship 1046518); an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship (CEG); and Cure Kids New Zealand (MW). Research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, writing of the report or the decision to submit the article for publication. LSAC is funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia.
Disclaimer The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to DSS, AIFS or the ABS.
Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf and declare: CEG received grants from the Australian Government and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute for the submitted work; FKM receives a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council in contribution for her salary; MW receives hourly financial reimbursement from the Australian Government for her advisory role on the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and has received grants from the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council and competitive philanthropic grants; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.
Ethics approval Families gave written consent to participate, and the Australian Institute of Family Studies Ethics Committee approved each wave.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data available.