Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Independent contribution of parental migrant status and educational level to adiposity and eating habits in preschool children



Little is known about the precise role of parental migrant status (MS) and educational level (EL) on adiposity and various eating habits in young children. Therefore, we assessed their independent contribution in preschoolers.


Of 655 randomly selected preschoolers, 542 (5.1±0.6 years; 71% of parental MS and 37% of low parental EL) were analysed. Body composition was measured by bioelectrical impedance. Eating habits were assessed using a semiqualitative food frequency questionnaire and analysed according to five messages developed by the Swiss Society for Nutrition, based on factors implicated in childhood obesity: (1) ‘Drinking water and decreasing sweetened drinks’, (2) ‘Eating fruit and vegetables’, (3) ‘Decreasing breakfast skipping’, (4) ‘Reducing fatty and sweet foods’ and (5) ‘Reducing the intake of meals and snacks in front of television’.


Children of migrant and low EL parents had higher body fat, ate more meals and snacks while watching television and had more fruit and fatty foods compared with their respective counterparts (all P0.04). Children of low EL parents also consumed less water and vegetables compared with their counterparts (all P0.04). In most instances, we found an independent contribution of parental MS and EL to adiposity and eating habits. A more pronounced effect was found if both parents were migrants or of low EL. Differences in adiposity and eating habits were relatively similar to the joint parental data when assessed individually for maternal and paternal MS and EL.


Parental MS and EL are independently related to adiposity and various eating habits in preschoolers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  • Birch LL, Marlin DW (1982). I don’t like it; I never tried it: effects of exposure on two-year-old children's food preferences. Appetite 3, 353–360.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Blass EM, Anderson DR, Kirkorian HL, Pempek TA, Price I, Koleini MF (2006). On the road to obesity: television viewing increases intake of high-density foods. Physiol Behav 88, 597–604.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bowman SA, Gortmaker SL, Ebbeling CB, Pereira MA, Ludwig DS (2004). Effects of fast-food consumption on energy intake and diet quality among children in a national household survey. Pediatrics 113, 112–118.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Caprio S, Daniels SR, Drewnowski A, Kaufman FR, Palinkas LA, Rosenbloom AL et al. (2008). Influence of race, ethnicity, and culture on childhood obesity: implications for prevention and treatment: a consensus statement of Shaping America's Health and the Obesity Society. Diabetes Care 31, 2211–2221.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Coon KA, Goldberg J, Rogers BL, Tucker KL (2001). Relationships between use of television during meals and children's food consumption patterns. Pediatrics 107, E7.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Coon KA, Tucker KL (2002). Television and children's consumption patterns. A review of the literature. Minerva Pediatr 54, 423–436.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Drewnowski A, Darmon N, Briend A (2004). Replacing fats and sweets with vegetables and fruits—a question of cost. Am J Public Health 94, 1555–1559.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dubois L, Farmer A, Girard M, Peterson K (2008). Social factors and television use during meals and snacks is associated with higher BMI among pre-school children. Public Health Nutr 11, 1267–1279.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ebenegger V, Marques-Vidal P, Barral J, Kriemler S, Puder JJ, Nydegger A (2010). Eating habits of preschool children with high migrant status in Switzerland according to a new food frequency questionnaire. Nutr Res 30, 104–109.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ekelund U, Sardinha LB, Anderssen SA, Harro M, Franks PW, Brage S et al. (2004). Associations between objectively assessed physical activity and indicators of body fatness in 9- to 10-y-old European children: a population-based study from 4 distinct regions in Europe (the European Youth Heart Study). Am J Clin Nutr 80, 584–590.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Evenson KR, Catellier DJ, Gill K, Ondrak KS, McMurray RG (2008). Calibration of two objective measures of physical activity for children. J Sports Sci 26, 1557–1565.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Field AE, Gillman MW, Rosner B, Rockett HR, Colditz GA (2003). Association between fruit and vegetable intake and change in body mass index among a large sample of children and adolescents in the United States. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 27, 821–826.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Forshee RA, Anderson PA, Storey ML (2008). Sugar-sweetened beverages and body mass index in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 87, 1662–1671.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hendy HM (1999). Comparison of five teacher actions to encourage children's new food acceptance. Ann Behav Med 21, 20–26.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Huerta M, Bibi H, Haviv J, Scharf S, Gdalevich M (2006). Parental smoking and education as determinants of overweight in Israeli children. Prev Chronic Dis 3, A48.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Huybrechts I, De Backer G, De Bacquer D, Maes L, De Henauw N (2009). Relative validity and reproducibility of a food-frequency questionnaire for estimating food intakes among flemish preschoolers. Int J Environ Res Public Health 6, 382–399.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kimm SY, Barton BA, Berhane K, Ross JW, Payne GH, Schreiber GB (1997). Self-esteem and adiposity in black and white girls: the NHLBI Growth and Health Study. Ann Epidemiol 7, 550–560.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kriemler S, Puder J, Zahner L, Roth R, Braun-Fahrlander C, Bedogni G (2009). Cross-validation of bioelectrical impedance analysis for the assessment of body composition in a representative sample of 6- to 13-year-old children. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, 619–626.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lasserre AM, Chiolero A, Cachat F, Paccaud F, Bovet P (2007). Overweight in Swiss children and associations with children's and parents’ characteristics. Obesity (Silver Spring) 15, 2912–2919.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Muckelbauer R, Libuda L, Clausen K, Toschke AM, Reinehr T, Kersting M (2010). Immigrational background affects the effectiveness of a school-based overweight prevention program promoting water consumption. Obesity (Silver Spring) 18, 528–534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Munoz KA, Krebs-Smith SM, Ballard-Barbash R, Cleveland LE (1997). Food intakes of US children and adolescents compared with recommendations. Pediatrics 100, 323–329.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nicklas TA, Yang SJ, Baranowski T, Zakeri I, Berenson G (2003). Eating patterns and obesity in children. The Bogalusa Heart Study. Am J Prev Med 25, 9–16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Niederer I, Kriemler S, Zahner L, Burgi F, Ebenegger V, Hartmann T et al. (2009). Influence of a lifestyle intervention in preschool children on physiological and psychological parameters (Ballabeina): study design of a cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health 9, 94.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Patrick H, Nicklas TA (2005). A review of family and social determinants of children′s eating patterns and diet quality. J Am Coll Nutr 24, 83–92.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Prader A, Largo RH, Molinari L, Issler C (1989). Physical growth of Swiss children from birth to 20 years of age. First Zurich longitudinal study of growth and development. Helv Paediatr Acta Suppl 52, 1–125.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Reilly JJ (2002). Assessment of childhood obesity: national reference data or international approach? Obes Res 10, 838–840.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sausenthaler S, Kompauer I, Mielck A, Borte M, Herbarth O, Schaaf B et al. (2007). Impact of parental education and income inequality on children's food intake. Public Health Nutr 10, 24–33.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tohill BC, Seymour J, Serdula M, Kettel-Khan L, Rolls BJ (2004). What epidemiologic studies tell us about the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and body weight. Nutr Rev 62, 365–374.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Turrell G, Kavanagh AM (2006). Socio-economic pathways to diet: modelling the association between socio-economic position and food purchasing behaviour. Public Health Nutr 9, 375–383.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe WS, Campbell CC, Frongillo Jr EA, Haas JD, Melnik TA (1994). Overweight schoolchildren in New York State: prevalence and characteristics. Am J Public Health 84, 807–813.

    Article  CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was principally supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 3200B0-116837) and Health Promotion Switzerland (Project No. 2104). Additional funding was obtained from a research award for Interdisciplinary Research from the University of Lausanne, a Takeda research award, the Wyeth Foundation for the Health of children and adolescents, the Freie Akademische Gesellschaft and an unrestricted educational grant from Nestlé. We thank Professors R Gaillard, S Fanconi and F Ohl who had helped to make this study possible. A special thank to all the children, their parents, the schoolteachers and the respective school health services.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to V Ebenegger.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ebenegger, V., Marques-Vidal, PM., Nydegger, A. et al. Independent contribution of parental migrant status and educational level to adiposity and eating habits in preschool children. Eur J Clin Nutr 65, 210–218 (2011).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • adiposity
  • children
  • preschool
  • education
  • migrants
  • parents

This article is cited by


Quick links