The Neighborhood Social Environment and Dietary Intake among Preschool-aged Children and their Mothers

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Submission ID :
ESPR369
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Abstract: :

Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that obesity tracks across generations and that parent-child dietary intakes are correlated, underscoring the importance of examining diet from an intergenerational perspective. Positive neighborhood social features such as safety and collective efficacy may promote healthier behaviors, yet few studies have examined associations between neighborhood social environment and diet among parents and children.


Objective: To examine associations of neighborhood social environment with dietary intake among preschool-aged children and their mothers. 


Design/Methods: We administered a cross-sectional survey to a convenience sample of 300 mothers/female caregivers of Medicaid-enrolled 2-4-year old children in Philadelphia. Mothers reported their own dietary intake and their child's intake using the validated Dietary Screener Questionnaire. Perceived neighborhood safety and collective efficacy were assessed using 2- and 10-item validated scales. Participant addresses were geocoded to link police-recorded crime rates at the census block group level. Multiple imputation was used to impute missing data. Mixed-effects linear regression models assessed the association of the neighborhood social environment (in tertiles of safety, collective efficacy, and crime) with parent and child dietary intake, adjusted for demographics, family socioeconomic status, neighborhood poverty, and perceived and objective measures of the neighborhood food environment.


Results: Among mothers (mean age 31, 60% Black), higher perceived neighborhood safety was associated with higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables (beta=0.31 cups, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.55 comparing the highest to lowest tertile), as was higher perceived neighborhood collective efficacy (beta=0.27, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.51, Figure 1). Living in a neighborhood in the lowest tertile of violent crime (vs. highest) was associated with higher intake of whole grains (beta=0.14 ounces, 95% CI: 0.01-0.28). Among children (mean age 3.8, 44% female), higher maternal perceived neighborhood safety was associated with higher intake of whole grains (beta=0.09, 95% CI: 0.02-0.15, Figure 2). Neighborhood social exposures were not associated with intake of added sugars or sugar-sweetened beverages for mothers or children. 


Conclusion: Results suggest that selected perceptions of better neighborhood social environments are associated with higher consumption of some healthy foods among young children and their mothers. 

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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