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Parenting styles, family structure and adolescent dietary behaviour

  • Natalie Pearson (a1), Andrew J Atkin (a1), Stuart JH Biddle (a1), Trish Gorely (a1) and Charlotte Edwardson (a1)...



To examine associations between parenting styles, family structure and aspects of adolescent dietary behaviour.


Cross-sectional study.


Secondary schools in the East Midlands, UK.


Adolescents aged 12–16 years (n 328, 57 % boys) completed an FFQ assessing their consumption of fruit, vegetables, unhealthy snacks and breakfast. Adolescents provided information on parental and sibling status and completed a seventeen-item instrument measuring the general parenting style dimensions of involvement and strictness, from which four styles were derived: indulgent, neglectful, authoritarian, authoritative.


After controlling for adolescent gender and age, analysis of covariance revealed no significant interactions between parenting style and family structure variables for any of the dietary behaviours assessed. Significant main effects for family structure were observed only for breakfast consumption, with adolescents from dual-parent families (P < 0·01) and those with no brothers (P < 0·05) eating breakfast on more days per week than those from single-parent families and those with one or more brother, respectively. Significant main effects for parenting style were observed for all dietary behaviours apart from vegetable consumption. Adolescents who described their parents as authoritative ate more fruit per day, fewer unhealthy snacks per day, and ate breakfast on more days per week than those who described their parents as neglectful.


The positive associations between authoritative parenting style and adolescent dietary behaviour transcend family structure. Future research should be food-specific and assess the efficacy of strategies promoting the central attributes of an authoritative parenting style on the dietary behaviours of adolescents from a variety of family structures.

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