Parents and their parenting practices play an important role in shaping their children's dietary and physical activity behaviours and the home environment where these behaviours develop and take place. Measurement of such parenting practices can be based on parent- or child reports, but parents and children may not necessarily agree on how they experience and report such parenting practices. In a study just published in pre-pub in the journal BMC Public Health we aimed to assess agreement between parent and child reports on parental practices regarding such lifestyle behaviours that contribute to energy balance, and risk for overweight and obesity.
We used the data from the ENERGY-project, in which a cross-sectional survey was conducted among 10-12 year old children and their parents in eight European countries. Both children and parents filled in a questionnaire on 14 parental practices regarding five different behaviours (i.e. soft drink, fruit juice and breakfast consumption, sports activity and watching TV) and socio-demographic characteristics. Children's weight, height, and waist circumference were measured at school. We calculated percentages of agreement between children and their parents and kappa statistics per practice and country and assessed factors associated with agreement using multilevel linear regression. Reports of 6425 children and their parents were available for analysis. Overall mean agreement between parent and child reports was 43% and varied little among countries. The lowest agreement was found for questions assessing joint parent-child activities, such as sports or watching TV, and for parental allowance of the child to have soft drinks, or to watch TV. In general, agreement was lower for boys, younger children, younger parents, parents with less than 14 years of education, single parents, and parents who had higher BMI's.
Parents and children thus perceive parental practices regarding dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours differently in all parts of Europe, with considerable variation across specific practices and countries.