Parents as Role Models: Associations Between Parent and Young Children’s Weight, Dietary Intake, and Physical Activity in a Minority Sample

  • Jennifer CotoEmail author
  • Elizabeth R. Pulgaron
  • Paulo A. Graziano
  • Daniel M. Bagner
  • Manuela Villa
  • Jamil A. Malik
  • Alan M. Delamater


Objective We examined the association between parent and child fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake, physical activity (PA), and body mass index in an ethnic minority and low-income sample. Methods The study sample consisted of 86 children ages 5–7 years (80% Hispanic) and their parents. Three parent health variables (healthy weight, recommended F&V servings per day, and recommended weekly PA) were used to create a healthy role model index. Associations between the parent index and corresponding child health behaviors and weight were examined. Results Most parents (53.5%) were not healthy role models, 30.2% were limited healthy role models, 16.3% were good role models, and none were excellent role models; most parents and children did not meet guidelines for healthy weight, F&V intake, and PA. Parents who scored higher on the index were more likely to have children with higher levels of F&V. Furthermore, parents who had a healthy weight were 3.7 times more likely to have a child who had a healthy weight. Additionally, parents who were consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day were 10 times more likely to have children who were also consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day compared to parents who were not consuming the recommended servings of F&V per day. Conclusions for Practice These findings suggest the important role of parental modeling of healthy behaviors to their young children among minority/low-income families. Parents may serve as an important mechanism of change for children’s health status by increasing their own healthy lifestyle behaviors.


Pediatric obesity Parental role modeling Dietary intake Physical activity 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (Grant Nos. 1R34 DK074552 and T32 HD07510). Contribution of JM in the preparation of this manuscript was supported by a grant (no. 21-6/HEC/R&D/PPCR/2017) from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Author Contributions

AD, JC, & EP, conceived and carried out the study and analyzed data. MV assisted with study procedures. JM, PG, & DB analyzed data. All authors were involved in writing the paper and had final approval of the submitted and published versions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.University of MiamiMiamiUSA
  3. 3.National Institute of Psychology, Quaid-I-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan

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