Healthy eating in 10-13 year old children : understanding choice using the theory of planned behaviour and the role of parental influence : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Health Psychology at Massey University
Currently, one fifth of New Zealand children are overweight and one tenth are obese. The majority of the literature reports that an increase in the intake of energy-dense foods, particularly those containing fats and sugar, are a contributing factor in the development of overweight among children. This study utilised a social cognitive model, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) to examine the influence of behavioural beliefs, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control, and attitudes towards healthy eating on a sample of 10-13 year old children. The model examined their intentions to consume particular types of food, and whether intention, in turn, predicted dietary behaviour (self-reported consumption of healthy food items). In addition, the role of parental influence on children's eating behaviour was examined. Two hundred and sixty one children, comprising males and females aged between 10 and 13 years old, from two types of school, completed a questionnaire, which focussed on five different food groups. Parents and caregivers of the children also completed a questionnaire examining their child-feeding practices. The TPB explained 65% of the variance in Ashhurst School children's behavioural intentions and 43% of Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School (PNINS) children's intentions. Intentions accounted for 47% (PNINS) and 28% (Ashhurst) of the explained variance in dietary behaviour. Parental influence did not contribute significantly to the model. For PNINS children, behavioural intention partly mediated the relationship between subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and dietary behaviour and fully mediated the relationship between behavioural belief and dietary behaviour. For Ashhurst School children, behavioural intention mediated the relationship between attitude and dietary behaviour. The results of this study support the use of the TPB in identifying healthy eating intentions and behaviour in school age children. These results however, do not support the addition of parental influence, measured by the Child Feeding Questionnaire, as a predictor of children's dietary behaviour over and above the TPB.