A Qualitative Study of Family Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors of Mexican-American and Mexican Immigrant Fathers and Mothers

Published:February 12, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.010


      This study qualitatively examines contrasting parental decision-making styles about family food choices and physical activities as well as willingness to change behaviors among Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant mothers and fathers of school-aged children. Twelve sex-specific focus groups were held in English or Spanish in 2012. Qualitative analysis informed by grounded theory examined parenting styles (ie, authoritative, authoritarian, or permissive), barriers to healthy lifestyle, and parents’ stage of change about healthy lifestyles. One third of the 33 participating couples were born in Mexico. The majority of mothers and fathers described being permissive and allowing unhealthy food choices, and a minority of mothers reported more authoritarian approaches to promoting a healthier diet for their children. Mothers were more permissive than fathers about family physical activities and less engaged in these activities. Most mothers and fathers described only contemplating a healthier diet and more physical activity, while wanting their children to have a healthier lifestyle. These data suggest that clinicians need to assess and address differential parental roles when promoting a healthy lifestyle for children. Clinicians should also adopt culturally competent approaches to overcome barriers to parental engagement in diverse aspects of a healthy family lifestyle.


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      B. J. Turner is director, ReACH Center, and professor of medicine and adjunct professor of family and community medicine, University of Texas, Health Science Center San Antonio; and adjunct professor, University of Texas School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


      N. Navuluri is an MD and MPH student, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


      P. Winkler is director of the South Central Area Health Education Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


      S. Vale is a data analyst, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


      E. Finley is an anthropologist and qualitative data analyst, Veterans Evidence-Based Research, Dissemination, and Implementation Center (VERDICT), South Texas Veterans Health Care System; adjunct assistant professor, Division of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; and adjunct assistant professor, The University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston.