Research Summary : The effect of parenting styles on enforcement of oral health behaviours in children

Quek, S.J., Sim, Y.F., Lai, B. et al. The effect of parenting styles on enforcement of oral health behaviours in children. Eur Arch Paediatric Dent (2020).

According to Public Health England, around 1-in-4 (23%) of 5-year-olds in England suffer from dental decay. Although an often-preventable disease, dental decay remains the number one reason for childhood admissions for general anaesthesia in the UK.

It begs the question, why is dental decay amongst children in the UK and Europe so high? The study of focus this week endeavours to evaluate the impact of parenting style on the oral health behaviours of children (ages 4-6) using questionnaires.

Amongst the 389 children assessed, 95% had parents considered to have an ‘authoritative’ parenting style, leaving 5% (19 children) as having parents with a ‘permissive’ parenting style. Rather expectedly, the study found that:

  • Authoritative parents were more likely to monitor sweets/snack intake.
  • Permissive parents were less likely to ensure bedtime toothbrushing and ensure thorough brushing when tired or busy.

Perhaps more surprisingly, it was found that between-meal snacking frequency amongst children did not differ between parenting styles. It is possible that there is a lapse in collective awareness regarding the negative effects of frequent snacking on oral health, amongst parents in the UK. Data to support this notion could have great potential to support initiatives, that place importance on monitoring dietary habits, in order to improve child oral health.

A replication of this study, with a more even balance of authoritative and permissive parent participants, would help to further expose the lack of awareness surrounding between-meal snacking. Efforts should also be made to devise engaging ways in which the actions of permissive parents can be altered in a sustainable manner.

Yasmin Egonu

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