URC

Parental Relationships and Family Cohesiveness as Influencing Adolescent Eating

Golshid Fadakar
Melinda Blackman*
California State University, Fullerton

Keywords: adolescent health, nutrition & diet, parent-child relationships, family life

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the eating behaviors of adolescents, while investigating how influential parental relationships and family cohesiveness were on the adolescent’s behavior. This study consisted of 81 adolescents, 59 females and 22 males, from Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, California. This research indicated that strong family cohesion and individual parental relationships play a significant factor in healthy adolescent eating.

Introduction

Research has shown that nearly 60 percent of America’s youth consumed less than one serving of fruit per day, while 29 percent consumed less than one serving of vegetables per day. Furthermore, only 29 percent of high school students consumed five servings of fruits and vegetables per day (Kahn, Kinchen, & Williams, 1998; Krebs-Smith et al., 1996). With less than one third of high school students consuming the appropriate amount of fruit and vegetable servings, researchers were more motivated than ever to study adolescent nutrition and eating behaviors. Research has shown that parent-child relationships and family cohesiveness are factors related to adolescent eating behaviors (Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer, Story, & Perry, 2006; Franko, Thompson, Bauserman, Affenito, & Striegel-Moore, 2008; Kremers, Brug, de Vries, & Engels, 2003; Young & Fors, 2001).  Furthermore, research has shown that nutritious consumption of breakfast can have both positive effects on adolescents’ mental and physical health (O’Sullivan et al., 2008; Pearson, Biddle, & Gorely, 2009). A wide spectrum of research has shown that breakfast consumption plays a vital role in the mental and physical well being of adolescents; however there has been an increased rise in breakfast skipping among young people.

Family cohesion can be defined as the emotional connectedness between family members and is vital to children’s development and functioning (Ackard et al., 2006; Franko et al., 2008). Ackard et al. found that positive parent-child relationships were correlated with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and greater self-worth among adolescents. Franko et al. found that adolescent girls who self-reported their family relationships to be negative were more likely to skip meals and restrict their eating behaviors.

Research has shown that female adolescents who reported more family cohesion, communication, and parental monitoring tended to eat a healthier breakfast, consume less soda, and show higher consumptions of fruits, vegetables, and milk (Franko et al., 2008). Backman, Haddad, Lee, Johnston, and Hodgkin (2002) found that female adolescents, reported to have more positive feelings towards healthful dieting, had intentions of changing their diet to become healthier, and they consumed significantly fewer calories than male adolescents. On the other hand, Young and Fors (2001) found that male adolescents significantly ate both healthier breakfasts and lunches than female adolescents. However, there was no significant difference between male and female adolescents when it came to consumption of fruit and vegetables. Also, adolescents who reported eating both healthier breakfasts and lunches reported higher levels of family communication. Burch and Fisher (1998) found that parental intake of fruit, vegetable, and milk consumption was positively related to the children’s consumption of these foods. A study conducted by De Bourdeaudhuji (1997) examined the roles of mothers and fathers on food rules that are set in a home. This study found that children whose mothers and fathers imposed stricter food rules tended to make healthier food choices as they reached adolescence.

Although parent-child relationships and family dynamics have been shown to influence adolescent eating behaviors, research has shown how vital the consumption of breakfast plays in the life of an adolescent (O’Sullivan et al., 2008; Pearson et al., 2009). A study by Lien (2007) found that adolescents who consumed breakfast on a daily basis were significantly less likely to experience mental distress and were more likely to have better grades. Among young children, the skipping of breakfast can impede cognition and learning (Pollitt & Matthews, 1998). Despite the significant findings that breakfast consumption does influence mental well-being and cognitions among young children and adolescents, breakfast skipping is increasing in both age groups (Shaw, 1998; Siega-Riz, Popkin & Carson, 1998).

The purpose of the study was to examine the eating behaviors of adolescents (14-18 years old), while looking at how influential the effect of parental relationships and family cohesiveness were on the adolescents. The current study tested the following hypotheses:

  1. Female adolescents will significantly eat healthier breakfasts and lunches than male adolescents,
  2. Adolescents who report stronger parental relationships and family cohesiveness will consume more fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food.
  3. Adolescents who report positive relationships with their mother and father are more likely to consume healthier breakfasts and lunches.

The following assumptions were made by the researchers:

  1. The responses that adolescents give on the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation (FACES) scale III (Olsen, 1985; Olsen, Portner, & Lavee, 1985), eating behaviors, and parent-child relations scales are answered without any bias or any outside influences,
  2. The participants understand what the researcher is asking of them and can answer questions to the best of their knowledge, and
  3. Participants under the age of 18 received parental consent before proceeding with the survey.

The following limits were set: The study was limited by a sample of approximately 81 participants, which included 9-12th graders. The sample was limited to adolescents who resided in Southern California. The study was limited to the children whose parents gave consent for their participation, as well as receiving the children’s assent. The collection of data took place in the spring of 2009.

Methods

Subjects

The sample in this study consisted of 81 participants from Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, California. Among the participants, there were 59 females and 22 males who were between the ages of 14-19 year olds (M =16.26, SD =1.20). Furthermore, the sample was composed of nearly 88.9 percent (n = 72) Hispanic/Latino/Mexican/Puerto Ricans, 3.7 percent (n = 3) of Black/African-Americans, 2.5 percent (n = 2) Caucasian/Whites and Asian/Vietnamese/Pacific Islanders, one participant who identified as “Other”, and one participant who did not state the race. Because this study examined family cohesion, researchers were interested in the current living situation of the participants and marital status of the parents. Nearly 67.9 percent (n = 55) of participants lived with both their mother and father, while 24.7 percent (n = 20) and 3.7 percent (n = 3) lived with mother and father separately. Only two participants stated that they lived with an Aunt and/or Uncle. One participant did not state residence. With regard to parental marital status, nearly two-thirds (n = 54) of the participants stated that their parents were married. Additionally, 10 participants stated that their parents were divorced, and eight reported that their parents were separated. Furthermore, six participants stated that their parents never married, two stated an “Other” situation, and lastly one participant did not answer the question.

Instruments

For the purpose of this study, a questionnaire consisting of 83 questions was given to the participants. The survey consisted of 15 demographic questions, including gender, age, ethnicity, birth country, and grade level. Other questions included languages spoken at home, parental marital status, place of residence, parents’ highest level of education, hours spent at home without parental supervision on a daily basis, and overall grade point average (GPA). To determine the participants’ level of family cohesiveness and parental relationships, the FACES III was administered (Olsen, 1985; Olsen et al., 1985).

The first part of the FACES III scale asked participants to rate 20 statements about their family relationships. These statements included, “Family members ask each other for help,” “Family togetherness is very important,” and “Family members talk to other family members about their decisions.” The second part of the FACES III scale asked participants to rate statements about how they would like their families to be. These statements included, “Family members would ask each other for help,” “Family members would feel closer to each other than to people outside of the family,” and “Family members would talk to each other about their decisions.” The response selection for both parts ranged from a scale of 1 to 5, which included “Never,” “Once in a while,” “Sometimes,” “Frequently,” and “Almost Always.”

After the completion of FACES III questions, the eating behavior questions followed. This portion consisted of 15 questions, which included, “How often do you eat breakfast/lunch?” “How often do your parent(s) tell you to eat breakfast?” “How often do you eat fruit/vegetables?” How often do you drink carbonated soda? “How often do you eat dinner with your family?” “Does your parent(s) set any food rules or restrictions that you must follow?” and “Overall, do you feel that you eat healthy?” Participants could select from a variety of answer choices. In terms of how often participants ate breakfasts and lunches, selections included “Never,” “Sometimes,” “Often,” “Always.” For fruits, vegetables, and carbonated soda, response categories included, “At least 2 times a day,” “About once a day,” “About every other day,”  “About once a week,” “About once a month,” and “Never.”

The last part of survey consisted of questions pertaining to parental relationships. Parental relationships was assessed using a subscale that contained six questions:

  1. My parent(s)/ guardian(s) follow up on my school work (checking grades and talking to teachers);
  2. My parent(s)/guardian(s) usually know where I hang out and who I am with;
  3. My parents have set up rules and boundaries for me to follow;
  4. My parent(s) is/are willing to listen to what I have to say;
  5. My parent(s) is/are supportive of the decisions I make for myself; and
  6. My parent(s) is/are involved in my life.

The six response categories were “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “somewhat disagree,” “somewhat agree,” “agree,” and “strongly agree.” Categories were scored 1 through 6 with a range of 6 to 36. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of reliability for the parental relationships scale was .68.

The relationship between mothers and adolescents was assessed with two questions:

  1. I feel that I can talk to my mother/stepmother/guardian about my problems, and
  2. Overall, I am happy with the relationship I have with my mother/stepmother/guardian.

The Father relationship was assessed with two questions:

  1. I feel that I can talk to my father/stepfather/guardian about my problems, and
  2. Overall, I am happy with the relationship I have with my father/stepfather/guardian.

The response category for both of these scales was “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “somewhat disagree,” “somewhat agree,” “agree,” and “strongly agree.” The categories were scored 1 through 6 with a range of 6 to 36. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of reliability for both of these categories was .64 and .73, respectively.

Procedure

Participants were selected from various classes at Santa Fe High School. Because English is required of all students and consists of predominately of students from the same age groups, classes from ninth to twelfth grades were chosen. Participants were selected from five English classes: one freshmen class, three sophomore classes, and one senior class. Furthermore, students were selected from junior and senior Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) classes. AVID courses consist of students from all grade levels, who have intentions to continue on in higher education. Presentations were given to the selected classes about the nature of the study. A survey was sent out with the parental consent form, allowing for parents and legal guardians to know about the nature of the study and an assent form for students to give their own consent to participate. Participants were compensated with a pizza lunch once they had submitted the parental consent form signed, if applicable, the assent form signed, and the completed survey.

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed using Pearson correlations and independent t-tests. Independent t-tests were used to compare the rate adolescent males and females consumed breakfast and lunches. Pearson correlations were conducted to assess adolescent relations to parental figures and family cohesion.

Results

The first hypothesis stated that female adolescents would eat significantly healthier breakfasts and lunches than male adolescents. An independent samples t-test compared the rate female adolescents (M = 2.48, SD = .826) ate healthier breakfasts to male adolescents (M = 2.64, SD = .953). This test was not significant, t(79) = .84, p = .41, as female and male adolescents did not differ in eating a healthy breakfast. As for eating healthy lunches, an independent samples t-test found that female adolescents (M = 2.29, SD = .720) and male adolescents (M = 2.55, SD = .858) were not statistically different, t(79) = 1.36, p = .18.  Further analysis was conducted to examine the rate adolescents consumed breakfast and lunches. An independent samples t-test found that male adolescents (M = 3.41, SD = .854) ate significantly more lunches than female adolescents (M = 3.00, SD = .788), t(79) = 2.03, p = .05. However, with regards to eating breakfast there was no substantial difference between females (M = 2.76, SD = 1.00) and males (M = 2.86, SD = .99), t(79) = .40, p = .69.

 The second hypothesis stated adolescents who report stronger parental relationships and family cohesiveness would consume more fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food. An initial Pearson correlation was conducted to see the strength and direction between family cohesion and parental relationships. The Pearson correlation found that family cohesion (M = 58.95, SD = 9.63) and parental relationships (M = 27.68, SD = 4.64) were statistically significant, r(73) = .54, p = .00. This indicates that as one’s family cohesion increases, the strength of one’s parental relationship also increases. Correlations were calculated to further examine family cohesion and consumption of fruits, vegetables, carbonated soda, and fast food. A Pearson correlation between one’s family cohesion and consumption of fruit (M = 4.32, SD = 1.19) was found to be statistically significant, r(73) = .27, p = .023. This result indicates the stronger one’s family cohesion is, assessed through the FACES III, the more likely the adolescent is to consume fruits. Another Pearson correlation between family cohesion and vegetable consumption (M = 3.96, SD = 1.44) was found to be statistically significant, r(73) = .34, p = .003. This result reveals the higher the family cohesion, the likelihood the adolescent will consume vegetables. A Pearson correlation between family cohesion and consumption of carbonated soda (M = 3.40, SD = 1.33) was also found to be statistically significant, r(73) = -.26, p = .029. This finding suggests adolescents are less likely to consume carbonated soda when there is stronger family cohesion. The last Pearson correlation assessed family cohesion and fast food consumption (M = 3.16, SD = .75). This correlation was found to be statistically significant, r(73) = -.36, p = .001,  indicating the more family cohesion, the less likely the adolescent is to consume fast food. All initial hypotheses were shown to be statistically significant with regard to family cohesion.

Analysis was conducted to evaluate adolescents who reported stronger parental relationships were more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food. A Pearson correlation between parental relationships and fruit consumption was not statistically significant, r(81) = -.07, p = .53. This indicates that overall parental relationships and the consumption of fruits have no significant relationship. A Pearson correlation between parental relationships and vegetable consumption was not significant, r(81) = .13, p = .25. A Pearson correlation between parental relationships and consumption of carbonated soda was also not significant, r(81) = -.01, p = .93. The final Pearson correlation was conducted to examine the relationship between parental relationships and consumption of fast food. The correlation was not significant r(81) = .069, p = .54, revealing that there is no significant relationship between parental relationships and fast food consumption in adolescents.

The third hypothesis stated that adolescents who report to have positive relationships with their mother and father are more likely to consume healthier breakfasts and lunches. A Pearson correlation between mother relationship (M = 9.04, SD = 2.40) and eating a healthy breakfast (M = 2.51, SD = .853) was found to be statistically significant, r(80) = .274, p = .014. This result indicates as one’s relationship with one’s mother increases, the likelihood of consuming a healthy breakfast also increases. Additionally, father relationships (M = 7.85, SD = 2.81) showed to have a significant relationship on consuming a healthy breakfast, r(80) = .247 p = .027. As hypothesized, mother and father relationships had significant relationships on adolescents consuming healthy breakfasts. To further assess mother and father relationships on adolescents eating healthy lunches, analyses were conducted to determine the relationship between these variables. A Pearson correlation between mother relationships and eating a healthy lunch (M = 2.36, SD = .763) was not statistically significant, r(80) = .123 p = .28. A Pearson correlation between father relationships and healthy lunch eating was also not statistically significant, r(80) = .045 p = .69. In general, with regards to consuming a healthy lunch, there were no significant relationships between adolescents and mother and father relationships. (See Table 1 for correlation matrix.)

Table 1. Bivariate correlation matrix

 

Family Cohesion

Parental Relationships

Fruits

Vegetables

Carbonated Soda

Fast Food

Family Cohesion

 

.535**

 .267*

.339**

-.256*

-.385*

Parental Relationships

 

 

-.072

.129

-.010

 .069

Fruits

 

 

 

.515**

-.286**

-.394**

Vegetables

 

 

 

 

-.324**

-.376**

Carbonated Soda

 

 

 

 

 

 .412**

Fast Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

** Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed)
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed)

Discussion

The purpose of the current study was to examine the eating behaviors of adolescents, while specifically looking at how influential overall parental relationships, mother and father relationships, and family cohesion are on adolescents. Research has shown that parent-child relationships and family cohesiveness are influential factors related to adolescent eating behaviors (Ackard et al., 2006; Franko et al., 2008; Kremers et al., 2003; Young & Fors, 2001).

This study focused on gender differences and the consumption of healthy breakfasts and lunches, while it also assessed adolescents’ relationships with each parental figure and family cohesion.

With regards to gender, previous literature reported significant differences between female and male adolescents and their consumption of healthy breakfasts and lunches (Franko et al., 2008; Backman et al., 2002). However, the present study found no significant difference between female and male adolescents with regards to eating healthy breakfasts and lunches. The only significant result was that males tend to consume lunches more often than females.

This study hypothesized adolescents who report stronger parental relationships and family cohesiveness would consume more fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food than adolescents who report weaker relationships with their families and parents. The results found family cohesion had a significant impact on the consumption of more fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food. The more family cohesion, the more likely the adolescent was to consume fruits and vegetables and less carbonated soda and fast food. However, there was no significant relationship between overall parental relationships on consumption of fruits, vegetables, carbonated soda, and fast food.

Although overall parental relationships and eating behaviors were evaluated, researchers hypothesized that adolescents who reported to have positive mother and father relationships were more likely to consume healthier breakfasts and lunches. Results showed mother and father relationships had a significant relationship on healthy breakfast eating but not on healthy lunch consumption. One reason for this result could be that parental figures are typically home in the mornings to monitor breakfast consumption. Adolescents may respond to underlying observation from parents to eat healthy in their presence. Because parental figures are not with their children during lunch hours, children may feel the freedom to eat whatever they please.

Limitations

The potential limitations to this study included the sample size and gender of participants. This study consisted of 81 participants, with 59 females and 22 males in Santa Fe Springs, California. The sample size does not accurately reflect the general adolescent population. The disproportionate sample of male participants could have an effect on the generalization of the results to the adolescent male population. 

A second limitation may be the lack of diversity in the sample. This study consisted of 72 adolescents who identified themselves as Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American. With such a high proportion of Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American adolescents, it will allow researchers to generalize these results to the Latino/Hispanic community, though not to other ethnic populations.   The last limitation that should be considered is that the sample included adolescents whose parents gave consent for participation. The majority of this sample included adolescents who were under the age of 18. Participants were required to receive consent from a parent/legal guardian before they could submit their completed survey. Some parents may not have wished for their children to participate, or adolescents could have felt uncomfortable asking for parental consent knowing the nature of the study. 

Conclusions

To further add to this study, researchers could ask questions geared toward how friends and peers influence the choices adolescents make when it comes to eating certain foods. Because there was no significant difference between mother and father relationships on adolescents eating healthy lunches, researchers should explore peer influence. Outside of the home, children and adolescents spend a significant amount of time with peers. Relationships with peers and social interaction can play an influential role in the life of an adolescent (Mackey & LaGreca, 2007).

 This study generated significant results that can provide insight to the eating behaviors of adolescents in relation to parental relationships and family cohesion. Future researchers could expand on this research and other research directed to understanding the eating patterns of adolescents, while looking at family and parental relationships as well as peer relationships.

 

References

Ackard, D. M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioral and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30, 59-66.

Backman, D. R., Haddad, E. H., Lee, J. W., Johnston, P. K., & Hodgkin, G. E. (2002).

Psychosocial predictors of healthful dietary behavior in adolescents. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 34, 184-193. 

Burch, L. L., & Fisher, J. O. (1998). Development of eating behaviors among children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 539-549.

De Bourdeaudhuji, I. (1997). Family food rules and healthy eating in adolescents. Journal ofHealth Psychology, 2, 45-56.

Franko, D. L, Thompson, D., Bauserman, R., Affenito, S. G., & Striegel-Moore, R. H. (2008).

What’s love got to do with it? Family cohesion and healthy eating behaviors in adolescent girls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41, 360-367. 

Kahn, L., Kinchen, S. A., & Williams, B. I. (1998). Youth risk behavior surveillance-United  States, 1997. Journal of School Health, 68, 355-369.

Krebs-Smith, S. M., Cook, D. A., Subar, A. F., Cleveland, L., Friday, J., & Kahle, L. L. (1996).

Fruit and vegetable intakes of children and adolescents in the United States. Archives ofPediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 150, 81-86.

Kremers, S. P. J., Burg, J., de Vries, H., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2003). Parenting style and adolescent fruit consumption. Appetite, 41, 43-50. 

Lien, L. (2007). Is breakfast consumption related to mental distress and academic performance in adolescents? Public Health Nutrition, 10, 422-428.

Mackey, E. R., & LaGreca, A. M. (2007). Adolescents' eating, exercise, and weight control behaviors: Does peercrowd affiliation play a role? Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 32, 13-23.

Olson, D.H. (1985). FACES III (Family Adaptation and Cohesion Scales). St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota.

Olson, D. H., Portner, J., & Lavee, Y. (1985). FACES III. Family Social Science. St. Paul, MN University of Minnesota.

O’Sullivan, T. A., Robinson, M., Kendall, G. E., Miller, M., Jacoby, P., Silburn, S. R., & Oddy, W. H. (2008). A good-quality breakfast is associated with better mental health in adolescence. Public Health Nutrition, 12, 249-258.

Pearson, N., Biddle, S. J. H., & Gorely, T. (2008). Family correlates of breakfast consumption among children and adolescents: A systematic review. Appetite, 52, 1-7.

Pollitt, E., & Matthews, R. (1998). Breakfast and cognition: An integrative summary. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67, 804S-813S.

Shaw, M. E. (1998). Adolescent breakfast skipping: An Australian study. Adolescence, 33, 851 861.

Siega-Riz, A. M., Popkin, B. M., & Carson, T. (1998). Trends in breakfast consumption for  children in the United States 1965-1991. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67, 748S-756S.

Young, E. M., & Fors, S. W. (2001). Factors related to the eating habits of students in grades 9-12. Journal of School Health, 71, 483-488.

 


URC RESOURCES:

©2002-2016 All rights reserved by the Undergraduate Research Community.

Research Journal: Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 3 Vol. 4 Vol. 5 Vol. 6 Vol. 7 Vol. 8 Vol. 9 Vol. 10 Vol. 11 Vol. 12 Vol. 13 Vol. 14 Vol. 15
High School Edition

Call for Papers ¦ URC Home ¦ Kappa Omicron Nu

KONbutton K O N KONbutton