Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Ethnic differences and parental beliefs are important for overweight prevention and management in children: a cross-sectional study in the Netherlands

Paul L Kocken14*, Yvonne Schönbeck1, Lidewij Henneman2, A Cecile JW Janssens3 and Symone B Detmar1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Child Health, TNO, P.O. Box 2215, Leiden, 2301 CE, The Netherlands

2 Department of Public and Occupational Health, Department of Clinical Genetics, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, EMGO Institute for Healthcare Research, P.O. Box 7057, Amsterdam, 1007 MB, The Netherlands

3 Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, P.O. Box 2040, Rotterdam, 3000 CA, The Netherlands

4 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), P.O. Box 9600, Leiden, 2300 RC, The Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:867  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-867

Published: 12 October 2012



The prevalence of obesity and overweight is highest among ethnic minority groups in Western countries. The objective of this study is to examine the contribution of ethnicity and beliefs of parents about overweight preventive behaviours to their child’s outdoor play and snack intake, and to the parents’ intention to monitor these behaviours.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted among parents of native Dutch children and children from a large minority population (Turks) at primary schools, sampled from Youth Health Care registers.


Native Dutch parents observed more outdoor play and lower snack intake in their child and had stronger intentions to monitor these behaviours than parents of Turkish descent. In the multivariate analyses, the parents’ attitude and social norm were the main contributing factors to the parental intention to monitor the child’s outdoor play and snack intake. Parental perceived behavioural control contributed to the child’s outdoor play and, in parents who perceived their child to be overweight, to snacking behaviour. The associations between parents’ behavioural cognitions and overweight related preventive behaviours were not modified by ethnicity, except for perceived social norm. The relationship between social norm and intention to monitor outdoor play was stronger in Dutch parents than in Turkish parents.


As the overweight related preventive behaviours of both children and parents did differ between the native and ethnic minority populations of this study, it is advised that interventions pay attention to cultural aspects of the targeted population. Further research is recommended into parental behavioural cognitions regarding overweight prevention and management for different ethnicities.

Child obesity; Overweight; Culture; Health promotion