Evidence from the Southampton Women’s Survey has shown that a woman’s level of educational attainment is the strongest predictor of her dietary quality, determined by a prudent diet score. Women with lower levels of educational attainment have diets of poorer quality, indicated by a low prudent diet score, than those of higher attainment. We have also shown that a mother’s dietary quality before conception predicts the dietary quality of her child at three years of age. Children whose mothers have diets of higher quality will have better diets at age three years.

Observation

Maternal educational attainment is associated with diet quality

Mechanism

Mothers’ own compliance with dietary recommendations, and that of their children, was associated with their individual psychological characteristics, specifically control over their lives in general, and their diets in particular. These associations were strongest among women with lower levels of educational attainment. Educational attainment moderated the effect of mothers’ psychosocial characteristics, not only on their diets, but also on those of their children.

These results, together with a systematic review of the behaviour change literature, led to the development of two complex intervention studies: the Southampton Initiative for Health which evaluated the effectiveness of a behaviour change intervention (‘Healthy Conversation Skills’) in improving the diet quality of women of childbearing age from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Lifelab.

Intervention

Complex behaviour change interventions delivered during preconception and pregnancy