Being in sync with your partner improves your child’s dietary health

Do you and your partner have different parenting styles? Or are you pretty much on the same page? Many members of the community have expressed interest in learning the science behind parental congruence. And so we interviewed an expert in this area – Dorus Gevers, MPH – who was happy to teach us a little about the benefits of being in sync with your partner. But what exactly is parental congruence?

“Parental congruence is defined as the degree to which a father and mother, or other caregivers within one family, apply similar parenting practices or have similar parenting styles. Rather than being consistent over time as a parent, it refers to being consistent with the other caregiver of the child.” – Dorus Gevers, MPH

Gevers is affiliated with the Department of Health Promotion at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He recently published new research examining the link between adolescents’ snack intake and the consistency of restrictive snacking rules set by moms and dads. He collaborated on the research with Patricia van Assema, Ester F. C. Sleddens, and Nanne K. de Vries.

The researchers surveyed students while at school. Eating behavior was assessed. The students then judged their parents’ tendency to apply similar parenting practices (i.e., parental congruence).

So what did the data show?

The key finding is that restrictive snacking rules are effective…as long as both parents apply similar and consistent parenting practices.

“As expected, we found that high incongruence is likely to be undesirable with regard to children’s intake of energy-dense snacks. I was glad to see that the results also indicated that high incongruence between parents was not very common.” – Dorus Gevers, MPH

Many more studies would be needed to fully understand how parental congruence is related to child health and development. But for now, Gevers has a message for the community:

“I just would like to make parents aware that incongruence could be undesirable and encourage them to consider their own situation.” – Dorus Gevers, MPH

Want to read the full publication? It is easily obtained here. Unfortunately, Open Access is not yet available.