Cognitive ability, social desirability, body mass index and socioeconomic status as correlates of fourth-grade children's dietary-reporting accuracy

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To investigate the relationship of reporting accuracy in 24-h dietary recalls to child-respondent characteristics—cognitive ability, social desirability, body mass index (BMI) percentile and socioeconomic status (SES).


Fourth-grade children (mean age 10.1 years) were observed eating two school meals and interviewed about dietary intake for 24 h that included those meals. (Eight multiple-pass interview protocols operationalized the conditions of an experiment that crossed two retention intervals—short and long—with four prompts (ways of eliciting reports in the first pass)). Academic achievement-test scores indexed cognitive ability; social desirability was assessed by questionnaire; height and weight were measured to calculate BMI; nutrition-assistance program eligibility information was obtained to index SES. Reported intake was compared to observed intake to calculate measures of reporting accuracy for school meals at the food-item (omission rate; intrusion rate) and energy (correspondence rate; inflation ratio) levels. Complete data were available for 425 of 480 validation-study participants.


Controlling for manipulated variables and other measured respondent characteristics, for one or more of the outcome variables, reporting accuracy increased with cognitive ability (omission rate, intrusion rate, correspondence rate, P<0.001), decreased with social desirability (correspondence rate, P<0.0004), decreased with BMI percentile (correspondence rate, P = 0.001) and was better by higher- than by lower-SES children (intrusion rate, P = 0.001). Some of these effects were moderated by interactions with retention interval and sex.


Children's dietary-reporting accuracy is systematically related to such respondent characteristics as cognitive ability, social desirability, BMI percentile and SES.

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