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

Margaret M. Wrobleski, Elizabeth A. Parker, Erin Hager, Kristen M. Hurley, Sarah Oberlander, Brian C. Merry, Maureen M. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2302-2310
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Adolescent
  • African-American
  • Diet quality
  • Parental monitoring of child feeding
  • Social dietary influences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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