Dietary behaviour change in adolescence
Diet is an important determinant of health, especially during adolescence when growth and development are critical. Many young people continue however to eat a diet that does not conform with current dietary recommendations Relatively little research has been carried out into adolescent dietary behaviour change. The Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change has been developed and tested with a range of health related behaviours and indicates that change is a dynamic non-linear process involving several distinct stages (Prochaska and Diclemente, 1991). The aim of this study was to investigate adolescent dietary behaviour change amongst a sample of 513 fourteen year olds attending six schools in North London. The objectives were to assess the key features, patterns and characteristics of the sample's dietary behaviour, to establish the nature and extent of change of diet; and to investigate the context, influences and processes involved. A three phase study design was developed which utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods. Results from the quantitative phase revealed that over 50% of the sample had experience of changing either their fat or sugar intakes. Application of the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change revealed very similar patterns of change for both fat and sugar, although differences in the distribution of stages between females and males was apparent. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that adolescents who were female, perceived themselves to be overweight, were involved with cooking and ate a home based lunch were more likely to have changed their diets. Data from the semi-structured interviews revealed the complex processes and social influences involved in changing eating behaviours. Concern with body appearance was the major motivation for change, with direct health considerations being less important. The socio-structural context greatly influenced young eoleabilitY to successfully modify their eating patterns. These results have important implications for the future development of appropriate and effective health promotion dietary interventions aimed at young people.