BACKGROUND: To date, population based surveys aimed at gaining insight in health related behaviour of children have often used either child self-reports or parent proxy reports. It remains unclear however, if surveys using different sources of information from either parents or children are comparable. In addition, (over)weight status of children can lead to under- and over reporting by parents and children as a result of social desirability bias. We aimed at gaining insight in the level of agreement between parents and child reports regarding aspects of certain dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours, and whether there are differences in agreement between parents and child reports in healthy-weight and overweight children.
METHODS: Weighted kappa was used to determine the level of agreement between child and parent reports on health-related behaviour in 1998 parent-child dyads. We also stratified for weight status of the children. Information on children's health related behaviours was obtained by parental and children's questionnaires, and children's height and weight were measured. Associations between children's weight status and children reporting less, reporting more and reporting the same amount of health behaviour as their parents were investigated with multinomial logistic regression analysis.
RESULTS: The Cohen's kappa coefficients ranged from almost perfect agreement for the variable means of transportation, fair for the variables breakfast consumption and frequency of outside play to slight for the variables duration of outside play, frequency and duration of TV/DVD viewing and family dinner. Overweight children were significantly more likely to report less breakfast consumption (OR = 2.6 (95% CI: 1.3 - 5.1)) and lower frequency of outside play than their parents (OR = 1.8 (95% CI: 1.1 - 2.9)).
CONCLUSION: There can be considerable disagreement between the health related behaviours of children as reported by parents or the children themselves. Based on the present study, it cannot be concluded whether parents' or children's reports are more accurate. For future studies, social desirability and recall bias would be best demonstrated in a validation study comparing child and parent self-reports with more objective measures of physical activity and food intake.
- Child reports
- Health behaviours
- Meal patterns
- Parent proxy reports
- Physical activity