Understanding the food choice process of adolescents in the context of family and friends. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(5), 575-582

Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Ватерлоо, Ontario, Canada
Journal of Adolescent Health (Impact Factor: 3.61). 06/2006; 38(5):575-82. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.05.025
Source: PubMed


To understand from the adolescents' own perspective the decision-making processes they use to make food choices on an everyday basis and how they resolve their need for personal control over food choices with the values of family and peers.
A sample of 108 adolescents, aged 11-18 years, were individually interviewed. They were asked in a simulated task to choose a lunch from a menu of offerings and give reasons for their choices. In addition, open-ended questions probed for meal structures, dinners, perceptions of degree of choice, role of family and peers. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, coded, and analyzed for emerging themes.
Primary food choice criteria were taste, familiarity/habit, health, dieting, and fillingness. Lunches had a definite structure, and lunches differed from dinners. The food choice process involved personal food decision-making rules such as trade-offs among choice criteria within a meal (e.g., taste for core items and health for secondary items), and between lunches with peers (taste) and family dinners (health); negotiation patterns with the family (autonomy versus family needs); and interactions with peers.
The food choice process for most adolescents seemed to involve cognitive self-regulation where conflicting values for food choices were integrated and brought into alignment with desired consequences. Educators and practitioners should recognize the dilemmas adolescents face in making food choices and help them develop strategies for balancing less healthful with more healthful food items, through: (a) personal food decision-making rules, (b) effective negotiations with family members; and (c) appropriate interaction patterns with peers.

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    • "Food habits of an adolescent will not only define his growth and development in this phase but also remain in adulthood and eventually contribute to the development of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) [6]. Given that eating habits may influence current health and also health status lifelong [7] [8], adolescence becomes a peculiar period for lifestyle intervention to prevent NCD and avoid body fat accumulation [9] [10]. "
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    • "Unlike previously reported qualitative studies which have placed adolescent food choice within the context of the home/family (Bassett et al., 2008; Holsten et al., 2012; Hunt et al., 2011) or school (Contento et al., 2007; Cullen et al., 2000; Fitzgerald et al., 2010; McKinley et al., 2005; Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1999; Stevenson et al., 2007), this research has located young people outside of (the constraints of) these 'imposed' environments and within the community support system where the young people engage socially with peers. It is generally accepted that to better understand health related behaviour and how to encourage change will require the collaboration of those in research and practice (Barker & Swift, 2009). "
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    • "In most developing countries, teenagers are arguably at the forefront of changing food consumption, as adolescence represents the life cycle stage at which consumers are most open to novel influences (Jensen, 2003). While an abundance of research related to the food choices of adolescents has been conducted in North America and Europe (Contento et al., 2006; Goldberg and Gunasti, 2007), few studies have explicitly studied how newly emerging food systems in developing economies affect teenagers' eating behavior. Adolescents are of particular interest in studying influences on food choice, as the teen years represent perhaps the most dynamic and complex transition periods in the life cycle (Palan and Wilkes, 1997), resulting in significant changes in eating patterns, particularly "
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