National and international child health surveys have indicated an increase in childhood obesity in China. The increase has been attributed to a rising standard of living, increasing availability of unhealthy foods, and a lack of knowledge about healthy diet. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of selected socio-demographic characteristics on the BMI, nutrition knowledge, and eating behavior of elementary school children.
Multistage stratified cluster sampling was used. Information on demographics, nutrition knowledge, and eating behavior was gathered by means of questionnaires. The schools’ doctors provided the height and weight data. The study was set in one economically advantaged and one economically disadvantaged province in China. The participants were Grade 3 students, ages 8–10 years (N = 3922).
A cluster analysis identified four socio-demographic variables distinguished by parental education and family living arrangement. A one-way ANOVA compared differences among the clusters in BMI, child nutrition knowledge, and child eating behavior. Students in the cluster with lowest parent education level had the lowest nutrition knowledge scores and eating behavior scores. There was no significant benefit from college education versus high school education of parents in the other three clusters. BMI was not affected by parent education level.
The nutrition status of elementary school age children will benefit most by increasing the general level of education for those adults who are presently least educated.