The quality of general family functioning is a major determinant of healthy dietary habits — according to new research published in the journal Caries Research and led by Queen Mary University of London.

The East London Family (ELF) Study found that a mother’s perception of effective general family functioning has a significant effect on limiting the intake of sugary foods and drinks by their three and four year old children. In contrast, less effective family functioning leads to high frequency intake of sugary foods and drinks by three and four year old children in the family.

‘Effective family functioning’ was defined as a family which is able to manage daily life and resolve problems in the context of warm and affective family interactions, through clear communication, well-defined roles and flexible behaviour control.

Professor Wagner Marcenes, who led the study at Queen Mary University of London, explains: “Our research adopted a broad definition of ‘family’ and we included single parents, and those who are divorced, co-habiting, and same sex family types.”

The report shows that children from more functional families were 67 per cent less likely to consume more than four intakes of sugary foods and drinks a day, compared with children from less functional families.

“Effective family functioning is a safeguard against the well-known negative impact of lower levels of education in relation to sugar consumption” Professor Marcenes continued. “A significant number of children whose mothers had a lower level of qualification but whose family functioning was effective were more…

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