Dietary Behaviors and Obesity of Children From Low-Income Households by Gender of Caregiver and Child


Molitor, Fred; Doerr, Celeste


Purpose:To investigate the empirical support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education?s (SNAP-Ed) focus on mothers versus fathers by examining children?s risk and protective behaviors for obesity, and obesity status, by gender of primary caregiver and by caregiver-by-child gender dyads.Approach:Cross-sectional survey.Setting:Random sample of SNAP-Ed eligible households (≤ 185% of the federal poverty level) across California.Participants:2,242 children and their caregivers (17.8% male): the adult who prepares the meals or buys the food for the children.Measures:Cups of fruits and vegetables, water, sugar-sweetened beverages; teaspoons of added sugars; kilocalories; and food-only energy density, assessed through 24-hour dietary recall interviews. Dichotomous outcome was childhood obesity. Covariates were children?s race/ethnicity and age, and caregivers? obesity status.Results:Only one outcome was related to caregiver gender: male versus female caregivers? children consumed fewer kilocalories (P = 0.053). Caregiver-by-child gender analyses revealed female caregivers? sons consumed more kilocalories overall (Ps < 0.02), and added sugars than female caregivers? daughters (P = 0.001) and male caregivers? sons (P = 0.018). Female caregivers? daughters versus sons reported diets lower in food-only energy density (P = 0.004) and were less likely to be obese (23.7% versus 28.7%; aOR = 0.78, P = 0.035).Conclusion:Our findings suggest that SNAP-Ed?s focus on mothers rather than fathers is justified, but more effective childhood nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts should target families with female caregivers of male children.