Relationships Between the Home Learning Environment, Weight Status, and Dietary Intake: Results From a Cross-Sectional Study of Preschool-Aged Children in New South Wales, Australia

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Journal of Primary Prevention


The home learning environment is a potential correlate of childhood obesity and obesity-related factors. We examined relationships between the home learning environment and weight status and the home learning environment and dietary intake, in a sample of 303 preschool-aged children from Australia. We measured their height and weight, and their parents completed a questionnaire that included questions related to demographics, dietary intake, and the home learning environment. Parents reported their children’s usual consumption of foods from each food group, the frequency of their discretionary food intake, and the frequency of home activities that might support cognitive stimulation. We analysed relationships using regression, adjusting for parents’ education level, and household income. We found no significant associations between the home learning environment and BMI or weight category. We found a significant inverse relationship between the overall home learning environment and discretionary food intake scores, but when stratified by income, this result was significant for children from lower-income families only. Regarding specific elements of the home learning environment, we found significant inverse relationships between discretionary food intake and both reading to children, and teaching them the alphabet. While reading was significant across all income levels, teaching the alphabet was only significant in children from higher-income families. We also found significant inverse relationships between discretionary food intake and: visiting a library, teaching numbers or counting, and teaching songs, poems and nursery rhymes in lower-income families only. There was no association between the home learning environment and meeting individual dietary guidelines. This area requires further research to explore broader home environment factors that may influence these relationships. We also suggest that interventions explore the use of strategies to improve the home learning environment to determine its efficacy in improving healthy eating behaviors.

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