New paper: Preadolescents’healthy eating behavior:peeping through the social norms approach

Tija Rageliene (ESR9) recently published a paper one how social norms influence preadolescents eating behaviour in BMC public health, below you can read a summary of the paper, for the full paper, please see here

Preadolescents’ friendships are more than a social matter for your children’s health

When children develop, and approach adolescence age the parents’ influence decreases and peers are taking a more and more important place in children’s lives. Many previous studies have shown that relationship quality with peers has a significant impact on children’s social and psychological development. Social influence of peers also has a significant impact on shaping children’s food preferences and eating behaviour. In our study, we tried to understand and explain how peer-related social influence on preadolescents’ healthy eating behaviour is related to the quality of preadolescents’ relationship with peers.

We conducted a cross-sectional study in a convenience sample of 278 Lithuanian preadolescents from 9 to 13 years old, recruited from a public school. Preadolescents were asked to fill the questionnaire and answer the questions about their food intake and preferences, peer-related social norms of healthy eating and their relationships with peers. We analyzed our data using structural equation modelling and found out that from children’s social self-efficacy depend on how much they feel belonging to the peers’ group and how much peers’ approval they might need. We also discovered that feeling belonging to peers’ group as well as needing approval from peers is linked with injunctive social norms, which imply that eating healthy is something children need to do while being with peers. These social norms in turn were related to actual preadolescent’s intake of vegetables. This means that the quality of social relationships is relevant of predicting children’s healthy eating behaviour.

The findings of our study suggest that preadolescent’s healthy eating behaviour could be cultivated in a favourable social environment where preadolescents can foster sound social relationships with their peers, where their need to belong and being accepted could be met. Helping preadolescents to develop social communication and interpersonal problem-solving skills in order to increase their social self-efficacy while creating relationships with peers could create a positive peer context where new social norms of healthy eating could be established and children’s healthy eating behaviour encouraged.


Photo CC: Joe Urrutia/Nofima

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