Background: The use of dietary quality scores/indices to describe diet quality in children has increased in the past decade. However, to date, few studies have focused on the use of these scores on disease outcomes such as childhood obesity and most are developed from detailed dietary assessments. Therefore, the aims of this study were: firstly to construct a diet quality score (DQS) from a brief dietary assessment tool; secondly to examine the association between diet quality and childhood overweight or obesity; thirdly we also aim to examine the associations between individual DQS components and childhood overweight or obesity.Methods: A secondary analysis of cross sectional data of a sample of 8,568 9-year-old children and their families as part of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study. Subjects were drawn from a probability proportionate to size sampling of primary schools throughout Ireland over the school year 2007-2008. Height and weight were measured by trained researchers using standardised methods and BMI was classified using the International Obesity Taskforce cut-points. The DQS (un-weighted) was developed using a 20-item, parent reported, food frequency questionnaire of foods consumed over the past 24 h. Adjusted odds ratios for overweight and obesity were examined by DQS quintile, using the first quintile (highest diet quality) as the reference category.Results: The prevalence of normal weight, overweight and obese was 75, 19 and 6 % respectively. DQS ranged from - 5 to 25, higher scores indicated higher diet quality in the continuous score. In analyses adjusted for gender, parent's education, physical activity and T.V. viewing, child obesity but not overweight was significantly associated with poor diet quality: OR of 1.56 (95 % CI 1.02 2.38) in the 5th compared to the 1st DQS quintile. Findings from individual food items were inconsistent.Conclusions: The findings suggest that diet quality may be an important factor in childhood obesity. A simple DQS developed from a short dietary assessment tool is significantly associated with childhood obesity.