Background: Overweight epidemics, including among children and adolescents, are fuelled by contemporary obesogenic environments. Recent research and theory highlight the importance of socio-cultural factors in mitigating adverse impacts of the abundance of food in high-income countries. The current study examines whether family meal culture shapes young people's eating behaviors and self-regulation.
Methods: Young people aged 10-17 years were recruited through schools in four European countries: the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom. A total of 2,764 participants (mean age 13.2 years; 49.1% girls) completed a self-report questionnaire in class, providing information on healthy and unhealthy eating, joint family meals and communal meal values and use of eating-related self-regulation strategies.
Results: Path analysis found that family meal culture variables were significantly associated with young people's eating behaviors, as was self-regulation. Significant indirect effects of family meal culture were also found, through self-regulation.
Conclusions: Results confirm that family meal culture, encompassing values as well as practices, shapes young people's eating behaviors. Findings extend and link previously separate lines of enquiry by showing how food cultures can play out in the home environment. Importantly, the study contributes novel evidence suggesting that self-regulation is shaped by the home environment and mediates its influence.
Keywords: eating behaviors; family food environment; overweight; self-regulation; young people.
© 2014 The International Association of Applied Psychology.