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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Food Security, Dietary Choices and Television Viewing Status of Preschool Aged Children Living in Female-Headed Households Or in Two-Headed Households.

Authors
item Bowman, Shanthy
item Harris, Ellen

Submitted to: Family Economics and Nutrition Review
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2003
Publication Date: March 12, 2004
Citation: Bowman, S.A., Harris, E.W. 2003. Food security, dietary choices and television viewing status of preschool aged children living in female-headed households or in two-headed households. Family Economics and Nutrition Review. 15(2):29-34.

Interpretive Summary: There has been an increase in female-headed households over the past decades in the United States. The study compared food security status of female-headed households and two-headed households, and examined whether pre-school aged children (2 to 5 years of age) living in these two types of households had different dietary and television or videotape viewing practices. Poor dietary choices and many hours of television viewing are among the reasons postulated for the increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. This increase prevalence of childhood obesity is of concern because it would affect the children's quality of life as they grow older and may increase the health care cost in the future. The study showed that the diet of young children living in female-headed households were higher in energy, total fat, and saturated fat than the children in the other group. The reasons for these differences were partly due to their choice of foods from milk and meat groups. While young children in female-headed households chose more of whole milk, sausages and frankfurters, those living in two-headed households chose more of low-fat and skim milk and ate less high-fat meat products. The children from femaleheaded households watched more hours of television or video tapes; and a higher percent of them watched more than two hours of television or video tapes than the children living in two-headed households. With this information nutrition educators can advise adults who prepare young childrenÂżs food to choose lean meat cuts and adopt low fat food preparation techniques such as removing skin off the chicken, trimming fat from meat cuts, and encouraging young children to drink low fat milk rather than whole milk. Cutting down on empty-caloric intakes and reducing TV watching would also help reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity.

Technical Abstract: There has been an increase in female-headed households over the past decades in the United States. This study compared food security status of female-headed households and two-headed households, and examined whether children ages 2 to 5 years living in these two types of households had different dietary and television or videotape viewing practices. Data from the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals 1994-1996 and the Supplemental Children's Survey to the 1994-1996 conducted in 1998 were used for the study. The households included in the survey were grouped based on the head-of-household status: households having two-headed households, female-headed households, and male-headed households. The children (N=190), who lived in male-headed households were excluded from this study because of the very low sample size. This study showed that a majority of children in two-headed households were food secure, while only 56 percent of children in female-headed households were food secure. Female-headed households spent significantly less amount of money per person on monthly groceries and on foods purchased away from home, especially from fast food places. The diets of young children living in female-headed households were higher in energy, total fat, and saturated fat than the children in the other group. Both household groups consumed high amounts of added sugars. The children from female-headed households watched more hours of television or video tapes; a higher percent of them watched more than two hours of television or video tapes than the children living in two-headed households. Television watching has been associated with weight status in children. Because of the increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity, reducing intakes of foods and beverages which contain high amounts of added sugars and fat could help reduce intakes of empty, extra calories during the childhood. Limiting television viewing will also help in the prevention of childhood obesity.

Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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