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Friends and Family: How African-American Adolescents’ Perceptions of Dietary Beliefs and Behaviors of Others Relate to Diet Quality

Published:October 15, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.07.021

      Abstract

      Background

      Adolescents’ dietary intake often fails to meet national dietary guidelines, especially among low-income African-American youth. The dietary habits established in adolescence are likely to continue into adulthood, and a poor-quality diet increases the risk of developing obesity and chronic disease. Based on principles from ecological and social-cognitive behavior change health theories, perceptions of parental beliefs about healthy eating, perceptions of peer eating behaviors, and parental monitoring of what adolescents eat may positively influence adolescent diet quality.

      Objective

      The purposes of this study were to determine whether perceived parental beliefs about nutrition, perceived peer eating behaviors, and reported parental monitoring of the adolescent diet were related to African-American adolescent diet quality and whether these relationships were moderated by adolescent age or sex.

      Design

      This secondary cross-sectional study used baseline data (2002 to 2004) from an urban community sample of low-income adolescents participating in a health promotion trial.

      Participants/setting

      Participants were 216 African-American adolescent-caregiver dyads in Baltimore, MD.

      Main outcome measures

      The 2010 Healthy Eating Index was used to estimate adolescent diet quality.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Analyses included correlations, t tests, age- and sex-by-perception regression interactions, and multivariate regressions adjusted for body mass index–for-age percentile, caregiver weight status, and caregiver depressive symptoms.

      Results

      Higher diet quality scores were related to higher levels of perceived parental and peer support for healthy eating behaviors among adolescents (β=.21; P<0.05; β=.15; P<0.05, respectively) and to caregiver reports of parental monitoring of adolescent dietary behavior (β=1.38, P<0.01). Findings were not moderated by age or sex.

      Conclusions

      Consistent with ecological and social-cognitive theories, adolescents look to their friends and family in making healthy food choices. The relationships uncovered by this study describe some of the contextual, interpersonal influences associated with diet quality among low-income, urban African-American adolescents and warrant further exploration in future intervention studies.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      M. M. Wrobleski is a research consultant dietitian, Department of Pediatrics, Growth and Nutrition Division, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

      Biography

      E. Hager is an assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, Growth and Nutrition Division, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

      Biography

      B. C. Merry is a research associate, Department of Pediatrics, Growth and Nutrition Division, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

      Biography

      E. A. Parker is an assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

      Biography

      K. M. Hurley is an assistant professor, Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.

      Biography

      S. Oberlander is a social science analyst, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC.

      Biography

      M. M. Black is a professor, Department of International Development, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC.