Associations between parental stress and happiness and child’s health behaviors

  • R. Lehto
  • E. Lehto
  • R. Kaukonen
  • M. Nislin
  • M. Erkkola
  • C. Ray
  • E. Roos


Background: Happiness and stress are shown to be associated with person’s health behaviors. The aim of this study is to examine if parent’s happiness and stress are associated with child’s health behaviors. Methods: This study is part of a cross-sectional DAGIS study that examined 3-6-year-old preschool children’s health behaviors and their determinants in Finland 2015-2016. 809 guardians answered questions on personal happiness and stress. Perceived stress was assessed with a single question on a scale of 1-10. Happiness was assessed with a 4-item subjective happiness scale. Frequency of children’s sugary food/drink intake and fruit and vegetable intake were assessed with a food frequency questionnaire, screen time with 7-day diary kept by parents and physical activity with accelerometer. Linear regression analyses and covariance analysis were adjusted with child’s gender and age and parent’s education level. Findings: Children’s screen time was higher among those children whose parent was in the highest stress quartile compared to all others (beta 12,8 p 0.005). Parent’s happiness was negatively associated with child’s screen time (standardized beta -0.08, p 0.04) and positively associated with child’s fruit and vegetable intake (standardized beta 0.01, p 0.02). Parent’s stress was not associated with child’s health behaviors. Discussion: Parent’s stress and happiness were associated with some of child’s health behaviors and should receive more attention when promoting children’s health behaviors. Future studies should examine whether e.g. parent’s resources (e.g. time, support), self-efficacy and coping could explain these associations.
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