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Children's Role Models for Health: Parents Outrank All Others
Information provided by the American Dietetic Association: Your Link to Nutrition & Health

Do you ever wonder whom your child wants to be most like? A new survey by the American Dietetic Association Foundation says it's you, mom and dad! The survey found parents have more potential to influence their children.s behavior, including their eating habits, than anyone else.

"Parent" outranked "sports" celebrity as the person the child "would like to be most", according to the ADA Foundation's first Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, which asked a nationally representative sample of 1,230 parents and children about their attitudes and behavior regarding weight, eating habits and physical activity.

Children ages 8 to 12 said their top role models were:
* mother (23 percent)
* father (17.4 percent)
* unsure or no role model (13.2 percent)
* sports celebrity (8.3).

For 13-to-17-year-olds, the top responses were:
* mother (13.8 percent)
* unsure/no one (13.4 percent)
* sports celebrity (11.9 percent)
* father (11.3 percent)

Music celebrities, actors and actresses also were named as role models. Boys were more likely to identify their father as a role model, while girls more often selected their mother.

The findings underscore the importance of parents' involvement in helping children make good choices in life, including dietary choices. Research has found particularly strong links between the food mothers eat and the choices made by their children. And childrens eating behaviors are influenced by such family-related factors as the number of meals eaten together.

The survey also shows that the number of children who cited any role model decreased as the children got older, which reinforces the belief that parents need to positively affect children's development and behaviors at an early age, when parental influence is the greatest.

The ADAF Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey was funded by a grant made in memory of registered dietitian Allene G. Vaden, past president-elect of the American Dietetic Association.

Survey results are based on telephone interviews and online questionnaires with a nationally representative sample of 1,230 parents and children (615 pairs) conducted in January 2003 in partnership with Knowledge Networks. The survey has a confidence interval of plus-or-minus 4 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.


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