Understanding fruit and vegetable consumption in children and adolescents. The contributions of affect, self-concept and habit strength
Abstract Affective processes and the role of automaticity are increasingly recognised as critical in determining food choice. This study investigated the association of affective attitude, self-identity and habit with fruit and vegetable (FV) intentions and intake in children. Previous studies have not fully explored their implications for children of different age groups and have not considered their independent contribution as part of a coherent model of behaviour that also controls for other psychosocial and environmental determinants of intake. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews with 362 children, 9–15 years old. Children were asked to report on measures of affective attitude, cognitive attitude, self-concept, social norms and facilitating factors following Triandis' Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour (TIB). Three stage least squares was used to estimate the independent association of affective attitude and self-concept with intentions and of intentions and habit with intake. Self-concept had the most prominent role in explaining intentions irrespective of age for both fruit and vegetables. The importance of affective attitude varied by age and with fruit and vegetables, with greater importance for vegetables and for children aged 11–13 years. Cognitive attitude was more relevant than affective attitude for 14 to 15 year-olds’ fruit intentions. Intake was more strongly associated with habit than intentions, with stronger associations for 14 to 15 year-olds. The current findings support the importance of self-concept for FV motivations and provide further evidence on the importance of habit to FV intake in young and older children and adolescents. Results also support a targeted usefulness of affective attitude for fruit and vegetable intentions. The discussion considers potential ways in which these constructs can be incorporated into interventions to increase FV intake in children.
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