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Parents and friends both matter: simultaneous and interactive influences of parents and friends on European schoolchildren’s energy balance-related behaviours – the ENERGY cross-sectional study

Saskia J te Velde1*, Mai JM ChinAPaw2, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij3, Elling Bere4, Lea Maes5, Luis Moreno6, Nataša Jan7, Eva Kovacs8, Yannis Manios9 and Johannes Brug1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Public and Occupational Health and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

4 Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

5 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

6 GENUD (Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development) Research Group. E.U. Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Zaragoza, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain

7 Slovenian Heart Foundation, Ljubljana, Slovenia

8 Department of Paediatrics, Pecs University, Pecs, Hungary

9 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:82  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-82

Published: 8 July 2014



The family, and parents in particular, are considered the most important influencers regarding children’s energy-balance related behaviours (EBRBs). When children become older and gain more behavioural autonomy regarding different behaviours, the parental influences may become less important and peer influences may gain importance. Therefore the current study aims to investigate simultaneous and interactive associations of family rules, parent and friend norms and modelling with soft drink intake, TV viewing, daily breakfast consumption and sport participation among schoolchildren across Europe.


A school-based cross-sectional survey in eight countries across Europe among 10–12 year old schoolchildren. Child questionnaires were used to assess EBRBs (soft drink intake, TV viewing, breakfast consumption, sport participation), and potential determinants of these behaviours as perceived by the child, including family rules, parental and friend norms and modelling. Linear and logistic regression analyses (n = 7811) were applied to study the association of parental (norms, modelling and rules) and friend influences (norm and modelling) with the EBRBs. In addition, potential moderating effects of parental influences on the associations of friend influences with the EBRBs were studied by including interaction terms.


Children reported more unfavourable friend norms and modelling regarding soft drink intake and TV viewing, while they reported more favourable friend and parental norms and modelling for breakfast consumption and physical activity. Perceived friend and parental norms and modelling were significantly positively associated with soft drink intake, breakfast consumption, physical activity (only modelling) and TV time. Across the different behaviours, ten significant interactions between parental and friend influencing variables were found and suggested a weaker association of friend norms and modelling when rules were in place.


Parental and friends norm and modelling are associated with schoolchildren’s energy balance-related behaviours. Having family rules or showing favourable parental modelling and norms seems to reduce the potential unfavourable associations of friends’ norms and modelling with the EBRBs.

Parents; Friends; Social norm; Modelling; Rules; Soft drink; TV viewing; Physical activity