Social, cultural and environmental influences on child activity and eating in Australian migrant communities


Julie Green, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Aim  This study set out to examine the socio-cultural, familial and environmental factors influencing health, eating habits and patterns of physical activity contributing to child and adolescent overweight and obesity.

Methods  Semi-structured, community-based interviews were conducted with contrasting key informant three-generation families; and generation by generation focus groups of grandparents, parents and children from four cultural communities in the state of Victoria, Australia. Purposive sampling occurred from Turkish, Greek, Indian and Chinese communities that have migrated to Australia within the last three generations (n = 160, eight families, 47 children aged 5–15 years, 29 parents, 42 grandparents).

Results  Evidence of two-way influences on eating and physical activity across three generations was evident, with children reporting the greatest cross-cultural diversity. A range of dietary restrictions was reported across all cultural groups. Efforts to foster healthy eating and lifestyle patterns within communities were evident. Parents, as a generation in particular, felt the need for more access to education and support regarding healthy limits for pre-puberty and puberty stages.

Conclusion  There is a dynamic influence of culture on many aspects of family lifestyle across three generations. To achieve successful intervention design, childhood obesity researchers need to collaborate with diverse groups and communities. Considering the role and influence of extended family, a multigenerational, whole-of-community approach beyond that of parent and child populations ought to be considered.