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17-05-2016 | Uitgave 11/2016

Quality of Life Research 11/2016

Food preferences, personality and parental rearing styles: analysis of factors influencing health of left-behind children

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 11/2016
Sha Tao, Lina Yu, Wanlin Gao, Wentong Xue



To understand the health status and problems of left-behind children (LBC) in rural China, those whose parents have moved to urban areas without them, and to focus on ways to improve their physical and mental health.


The study examined 827 children between 7 and 15 years old, selected using stratified cluster random sampling from five towns in Xiji County of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Each child was classified as either LBC or non-LBC. Measures included age- and sex-specific height and body mass index (kg/m2), a food preference questionnaire, the Revised Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and the Egna Minnen av Barndoms Uppfostran—My Memories of Upbringing (EMBU).


Malnutrition rates for LBC and non-LBC were 14.83 % (70/472) and 7.04 % (25/355) (χ 2  = 11.86, p < 0.01). More LBC reported hating vegetables and fruits. Eysenck Personality Questionnaire profiles of LBC revealed a significantly higher degree of neuroticism and psychoticism, and a significantly lower lie scale score (p < 0.01). LBC’s EMBU profiles showed that the paternal approach lacked emotional warmth and understanding and the maternal approach was characterized by favoritism, over-interference and overprotection. There were a significant negative correlation between the personality characteristic of neuroticism and liking vegetables and fruits (p < 0.01), and a negative correlation between psychoticism and liking vegetables (p < 0.05).


The health status of LBC is problematic. Food preferences, personality type and parenting styles should be taken into account when measures are developed to improve the health of these children.

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