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Parents’ unhealthy lifestyles trigger numerous detrimental effects on children

Findings suggest the important influence of parental smoking on the behavioral choices of Chinese adolescents.
February 11, 2005

By Sarah Huoh
Originally published on February 11, 2005 in HSC Weekly

Parents know that their actions and behaviors can influence those of their children.

However, what they may not know is that an unhealthy lifestyle choice can have multiple negative effects on the health of their children.

Researchers with the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School knew that parental smoking was associated with the adoption of unhealthy behaviors in children in western society—but little was known about this relationship in the Chinese population.

Bin Xie, a Ph.D. candidate and research associate, investigated the effect of parental smoking on patterns of consumption of vegetables, fruit, meat, milk and sweets, time spent watching television, and engagement in vigorous physical activity, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in Chinese adolescents.

The research was conducted in conjunction with C. Anderson Johnson, the Sidney Garfield Professor of Preventive Medicine and director of the institute, and Chih-Ping Chou, associate professor of research.

“Adolescents whose parents were heavy smokers consumed significantly less vegetables and fruits, significantly more meats and sweets, spent significantly more time watching television and were more likely to engage in cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking than those with parents who never smoked or quit smoking within the past month or before,” said Xie.

According to Xie, these findings suggest the important influence of parental smoking on the behavioral choices of Chinese adolescents, underscoring the need for tobacco control interventions in this population.

A total of 12,364 Chinese adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 and their parents participated in the study.

The research was part of the ongoing China Seven Cities Study, a long-term follow-up health promotion and smoking prevention study conducted in seven geographically different cities on mainland China.