Following Family or Friends. Social Norms in Adolescent Healthy Eating
Appetite, vol. 86, pp. 54–60, 2014
Posted: 23 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2015
It is commonly believed that during adolescence children become increasingly influenced by peers at the expense of parents. To test the strength of this tendency with regards to healthy eating (fruit and vegetable intake), a survey was completed by 757 adolescent-parent dyads. Our theoretical framework builds on social cognitive theory and the focus theory of normative conduct, and data are analysed by means of confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling. The study reveals that when it comes to adolescents’ fruit and vegetable intake, parents remain the main influencer, with what they do (descriptive norms) being more important than what they say (injunctive norms). The study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of what influences adolescent healthy eating, including the social influence of parents and friends, while also taking adolescent self-efficacy and outcome expectations into account. No previous studies have included all these factors in the same analysis. The study has a number of important implications: (1) healthy eating interventions should aim at strengthening self-efficacy and positive outcome expectations among adolescents, (2) the family context should be included when implementing healthy eating interventions and (3) parents’ awareness of their influence on their children’s healthy eating should be reinforced.
Keywords: Adolescent diet, Social influence, Parenting, Social cognitive theory, Structural equation modelling
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