Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 364–375 | Cite as

The Influence of Home and School Environments on Children’s Diet and Physical Activity, and Body Mass Index: A Structural Equation Modelling Approach

  • Joyce Haddad
  • Shahid Ullah
  • Lucinda Bell
  • Evie Leslie
  • Anthea Magarey


Introduction The home and school environments play important roles in influencing children’s health behaviours. However, their simultaneous influence on childhood obesity has not yet been examined. We explore the relationship of the home and school environments with childhood obesity, to determine whether this relationship is mediated by children’s fruit and vegetable intake and physical behaviours. Methods This study uses baseline data from 9 to 11 year old children, their parents and school principals (matched data n = 2466) from the Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle Project. Child-reported behaviours, parent-reported home environment and principal-reported school environment data were collected via questionnaires. Trained researchers measured children’s height and weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI, kg/m2) was calculated. Structural equation modelling was used to assess the relationship of the home and school environments with children’s fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity behaviours, and children’s BMI. Result The home diet environment was positively associated with child diet (β = 0.18, p < 0.001). The home physical activity environment had the largest inverse association with BMI (β = − 0.11, p < 0.001), indirectly through child physical activity (β = 0.28 ,p < 0.001). Schools’ healthy eating policy implementation was significantly associated with child diet (β = 0.52, p < 0.05), but physical activity policy was not associated with child activity (β = − 0.007, p > 0.05). The school environment was not associated with child BMI. Discussion The home environment had a stronger association with healthier child behaviours, compared to the school environment. These findings suggest that future childhood obesity interventions targeting healthier home environments and supporting parents can promote healthier child eating and physical activity behaviours.


Childhood obesity Diet Activity Environments 



We thank the schools and families for their participation in the OPAL program, the OPAL Evaluation team for their contribution to the project and SA Health for allowing Flinders University use of the OPAL data. SU formulated the research question and designed the study. SU and JH analysed the data, and JH drafted the manuscript as part of her Honours project. SU, AM and LB provided academic supervision and support in all aspects of the study analysis and writing. EL provided support in the study writing and reviewed the manuscript. All five authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)AdelaideAustralia

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