Healthy dietary and physical activity behaviours are established early in life where children learn by observing their parents. Therefore, parents can act as role models and influence their children toward a healthier lifestyle. Besides a strong association between parental and child health behaviours, parents also influence their children's health behaviours through socio-cognitive processes, where perceived self-efficacy is the central component. The objective was to examine if parental self-efficacy among Swedish mothers was associated with their four-year-old children's dietary and physical activity behaviours.
This cross-sectional study was based on information from control participants that took part in the Swedish primary prevention trial of childhood obesity (PRIMROSE) (n = 420 mother-child pairs). Linear regression models were used to examine the associations between parental self-efficacy (Parental Self-Efficacy for Promoting Healthy Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviours in Children Scale) and children's dietary intake (parent reported) and levels of physical activity (accelerometer) with adjustments for potential confounders.
Mothers' efficacy beliefs in promoting healthy dietary or physical activity behaviours in their children were associated with a slightly higher consumption of fruit and vegetables among their children (β: 0.03 [95%CI: 0.01; 0.04] P < 0.001) and slightly higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous activity (β: 0.43 [95%CI: 0.05; 0.81] P = 0.03). Mothers' belief in their ability to limit unhealthy dietary and physical activity behaviours was inversely associated with children's intake of unhealthy snacks (β: -0.06 [95%CI: -0.10; -0.02] P < 0.01).
Our cross-sectional study suggests weak positive correlations between maternal self-efficacy and healthy dietary and physical activity behaviours, and weak inverse associations between maternal self-efficacy and unhealthy dietary and physical activity behaviours among their children.