Background: Unhealthy eating habits in adolescence lead to a wide variety of health problems and disorders. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of absence of parental rules on eating and unhealthy eating behaviour and to explore the relationships between parental rules on eating and a wide range of unhealthy eating habits of boys and girls. We also explored the association of sociodemographic characteristics such as gender, family affluence or parental education with eating related parental rules and eating habits of adolescents.
Methods: The data on 2765 adolescents aged 13-15 years (mean age: 14.4; 50.7 % boys) from the Slovak part of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study 2014 were assessed. The associations between eating-related parental rules and unhealthy eating patterns using logistic regression were assessed using logistic regression.
Results: Unhealthy eating habits occurred frequently among adolescents (range: 18.0 % reported skipping breakfast during weekends vs. 75.8 % for low vegetables intake). Of all adolescents, 20.5 % reported a lack of any parental rules on eating (breakfast not mandatory, meal in front of TV allowed, no rules about sweets and soft drinks). These adolescents were more likely to eat unhealthily, i.e. to skip breakfast on weekdays (odds ratio/95 % confidence interval: 5.33/4.15-6.84) and on weekends (2.66/2.12-3.34), to report low consumption of fruits (1.63/1.30-2.04) and vegetables (1.32/1.04-1.68), and the frequent consumption of sweets (1.59/1.30-1.94), soft drinks (1.93/1.56-2.38) and energy drinks (2.15/1.72-2.70).
Conclusions: Parental rule-setting on eating is associated with eating behaviours of adolescents. Further research is needed to disentangle causality in this relationship. If causal, parents may be targeted to modify the eating habits of adolescents.