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Pre-school nutrition-related behaviours at home and early childhood education services: findings from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study

  • Sarah Gerritsen (a1), Sarah E Anderson (a2), Susan MB Morton (a3) and Clare R Wall (a4)

Pre-school nutrition-related behaviours influence diet and development of lifelong eating habits. We examined the prevalence and congruence of recommended nutrition-related behaviours (RNB) in home and early childhood education (ECE) services, exploring differences by child and ECE characteristics.


Telephone interviews with mothers. Online survey of ECE managers/head teachers.


New Zealand.


Children (n 1181) aged 45 months in the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study.


A mean 5·3 of 8 RNB were followed at home, with statistical differences by gender and ethnic group, but not socio-economic position. ECE services followed a mean 4·8 of 8 RNB, with differences by type of service and health-promotion programme participation. No congruence between adherence at home and in ECE services was found; half of children with high adherence at home attended a service with low adherence. A greater proportion of children in deprived communities attended a service with high adherence, compared with children living in the least deprived communities (20 and 12 %, respectively).


Children, across all socio-economic positions, may not experience RNB at home. ECE settings provide an opportunity to improve or support behaviours learned at home. Targeting of health-promotion programmes in high-deprivation areas has resulted in higher adherence to RNB at these ECE services. The lack of congruence between home and ECE behaviours suggests health-promotion messages may not be effectively communicated to parents/family. Greater support is required across the ECE sector to adhere to RNB and promote wider change that can reach into homes.

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