Psychosocial influences on fruit, vegetable and milk consumption among a cohort of Houston -area fifth graders

Victoria J Thompson, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Epidemiological evidence suggests that fruit and vegetable intake is negatively associated with the development of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, some cancers and diabetes mellitus. Inadequate consumption of milk during developmental years is associated with osteoporosis. Consumption of fruit, vegetable and milk (FVM) declines from childhood to adolescence. Adolescent eating habits persist into adulthood; thus, understanding psychosocial factors such as self-efficacy, norms and preferences, is important for developing effective interventions. Preferences, one of the most consistent correlates of fruit and vegetable consumption in children and adolescents, may mediate the relationships between self-efficacy and norms and fruit and vegetable consumption. Fifth grade students from one middle school in South Texas were followed for two years. Students completed lunch food records and questionnaires assessing fruit, vegetable and milk self-efficacy and norms and fruit and vegetable preferences. Principal component analyses identified four scales: Fruit Self-Efficacy, Vegetable Self-Efficacy, Fruit and Vegetable Norms, and Milk Influences. Reliability and validity of the four scales and emerging subscales were assessed using Cronbach's alpha and consumption data, respectively. Associations between longitudinal FVM consumption and self-efficacy and norms were tested. Additionally, the influence of preferences on the relationship of self-efficacy, norms and fruit and vegetable consumption was examined. Confirmatory factor analyses confirmed four scales and subscales. Internal consistency and test-retest reliabilities were acceptable. Self-efficacy and norms were related to FVM consumption and changes in fruit and high fat vegetable consumption over the two-year period. While intake over the two-year period differed statistically, eating patterns were stable. Preferences mediated the relation between fruit self-efficacy and FV norms and fruit consumption. In conclusion, self-efficacy and norms about consuming FVM at school appear to influence FVM consumption. Because eating patterns were similar over the two-year period, establishing healthy eating habits in elementary school is important. While FVM self-efficacy and norms influenced FVM consumption in children, only fruit preferences mediated the relationship of fruit consumption, self-efficacy and norms. Since the influences of FVM consumption appear to differ, interventions designed to increase consumption should target these differences and consider the specificity of self-efficacy and norms.

Subject Area

Public health|Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Thompson, Victoria J, "Psychosocial influences on fruit, vegetable and milk consumption among a cohort of Houston -area fifth graders" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3183952.