How Shared Dietary Behaviors Within Asian American Families Are Influenced by Emotional Interaction Qualities: A Nationwide Cross-sectional Analysis

Int J Behav Med. 2024 Jun 12. doi: 10.1007/s12529-024-10303-4. Online ahead of print.


Background: Asian American (AA) young adults face a looming diet-related non-communicable disease crisis. Interactions with family members are pivotal in the lives of AA young adults and form the basis of family-based interventions; however, little is known on the role of these interactions in shared family food behaviors. Through an analysis of 2021 nationwide survey data of 18-35-year-old AAs, this study examines how the quality of family member interactions associates with changes in shared food purchasing, preparation, and consumption.

Method: Interaction quality was assessed through 41 emotions experienced while interacting with family, and was categorized as positive (e.g., "I look forward to it"), negative (e.g., "I feel annoyed"), and appreciation-related (e.g., "I feel respected") interactions. Participants were also asked how frequently they ate meals, ate out, grocery shopped, and cooked with their family.

Results: Among the 535 AAs surveyed (47.6% East Asian, 21.4% South Asian, 22.6% Southeast Asian), 842 unique family interactions were analyzed; 43.5% of interactions were with mothers, followed by siblings (27.1%), and fathers (18.5%). Participants most frequently ate meals with their family (at least daily for 33.5% of participants), followed by cooking (at least daily for 11.3%). In adjusted analyses, an increase in shared food behaviors was particularly associated with positive interactions, although most strongly with cooking together and least strongly with eating meals together; significant differences between ethnic subgroups were not observed.

Conclusion: Findings revealed the importance of family interaction quality when leveraging family relationships to develop more tailored, impactful AA young adult dietary interventions.

Keywords: Asian American; Cooking; Diet; Family; Grocery; Young adult.