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Family food environment and dietary behaviors likely to promote fatness in 5–6 year-old children



The family food environment (FFE) is likely to exert important influences on young children's eating. Examination of multiple aspects of the FFE may provide useful insights regarding which of these might most effectively be targeted to prevent childhood obesity.


To assess the associations between the FFE and a range of obesity-promoting dietary behaviors in 5–6-year-old children.


Cross-sectional study.


Five hundred and sixty families sampled from three socio-economically distinct areas.


Predictors included parental perceptions of their child's diet, food availability, child feeding practices, parental modeling of eating and food preparation and television (TV) exposure. Dietary outcomes included energy intake, vegetable, sweet snack, savory snack and high-energy (non-dairy) fluid consumption.


Multiple linear regression analyses, adjusted for all other predictor variables and maternal education, showed that several aspects of the FFE were associated with dietary outcomes likely to promote fatness in 5–6-year-old children. For example, increased TV viewing time was associated with increased index of energy intake, increased sweet snack and high-energy drink consumption, and deceased vegetable intake. In addition, parent's increased confidence in the adequacy of their child's diet was associated with increased consumption of sweet and savory snacks and decreased vegetable consumption.


This study substantially extends previous research in the area, providing important insights with which to guide family-based obesity prevention strategies.

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Karen Campbell conceived, designed and undertook this study and its analysis and writing up. David Crawford supported all aspects of the study conception, development, analysis and writing up. Kylie Ball provided expert advice regarding statistical and analytical approaches to the data, as well as providing substantial input into reviewing the manuscript.We acknowledge the contributions of Dr Michelle Jackson, who was responsible for collection of data in the field; of Ms Alison Carver, the Data Manager of Deakin University's Behavioural Epidemiology Group; of our co-investigators, Dr Karen Cashel, Professor Leanne Birch and Kay Gibbons, all of whom contributed to the planning of the study; and of our co-investigator Professor Tony Worsley for ongoing analytical and conceptual input to this study.

This study was funded by a Diabetes Australia grant. Karen Campbell was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and is currently supported by a National Heart Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship. David Crawford and Kylie Ball are supported jointly by National Health and Medical Research Council and by National Heart Foundation Career Development Awards.

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Correspondence to K J Campbell.

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Campbell, K., Crawford, D. & Ball, K. Family food environment and dietary behaviors likely to promote fatness in 5–6 year-old children. Int J Obes 30, 1272–1280 (2006).

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  • family environment
  • children
  • eating behaviors
  • obesity prevention
  • healthy eating

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