BACKGROUND: Although general parenting styles and restrictive parental feeding practices have been associated with children's weight status, few studies have examined the association between feeding styles and proximal outcomes such as children's food intake, especially in multi-ethnic families with limited incomes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association of parental feeding styles and young children's evening food intake in a multiethnic sample of families in Head Start. METHODS: Participants were 715 Head Start children and their parents from Texas and Alabama representing three ethnic groups: African-American (43%), Hispanic (29%), and White (28%). The Caregivers Feeding Styles Questionnaire (Hughes) was used to characterize authoritative, authoritarian (referent), indulgent or uninvolved feeding styles. Food intake in several food groups was calculated from 3 days of dietary recalls for the child for evening food intakes from 3 PM until bedtime. RESULTS: Compared to children of authoritarian parents, intakes of fruits, juice and vegetables were lowest among children of indulgent or uninvolved parents (1.77 +/- 0.09 vs 1.45 +/- 0.09 and 1.42 +/- 0.11 cups) as were intakes of dairy foods (0.84 +/- 0.05 vs 0.67 +/- 0.05 and 0.63+0.06 cups), respectively. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that permissive parent feeding styles like indulgent or uninvolved relate negatively to children's intake of nutrient-rich foods fruit, 100% fruit juice, vegetables and dairy foods from 3 PM until bedtime.