Like mother, like child? An investigation of the association of fruit and vegetable intake among mothers and children with intellectual disabilities and typically developing children
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Research has documented that the dietary patterns of parents of typically developing (TD) children have an impact on their child's diets, including diet quality and intake of certain foods. This influence is thought to be a function of a combination of serving various foods to their child, modeling healthy eating behaviors, providing companionship during mealtime, and implementing various feeding styles and beliefs as their child develops. The extent to which parents of children with intellectual disabilities (ID) influence their children’s dietary intake is unknown. Children with ID experience aversions to certain sensory characteristics of food, food selectivity, and idiosyncratic mealtime behaviors, all of which may result in limited dietary variety. These factors may make children with ID less responsive to their parents’ dietary habits and patterns. Weak to moderate correlations have been found to exist between parents of TD children and their offspring in terms of dietary intake, however, studies examining the parent to child associations of fruit and vegetable intake in the ID population are lacking. We performed a secondary data analysis on a cohort of children and parents involved in the Children's Mealtime Study, a cross-sectional study conducted from 2013-2016 in order to examine factors associated with weight status in children with ID compared to TD children. The goal of our analysis was to determine whether correlations exist between fruit and vegetable variety and consumption frequency among children and mothers and whether these differ between children with ID and TD children. A modified food frequency questionnaire was used to assess variety and frequency of fruits and vegetables consumed by mothers and their children. Statistically significant positive correlations were observed for both fruit and vegetable variety score and consumption frequency among the entire sample. However, the strength of the correlations were weak overall. A significant positive relationship was shown to exist between child fruit consumption frequency for mothers of TD children and their children (p<0.01), but not between mothers and children with ID. The findings indicate that although children with ID may experience greater aversions to food during mealtime compared to TD children, they still appear to be responsive to dietary habits of their mothers for most measures of fruit and vegetable intake.