The dietarian identities of adolescent females
Background: In our daily life, what we eat and why we eat certain foods have always been more than a matter of nutritional value. Instead, it had been proposed that there is an overarching concept of food-choice identity that people construct and depend on when making decisions about what to eat. Dietarian identity, defined as one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours with respect to one’s dietary pattern, has recently been conceptualized by Rosenfeld and Burrow (1), along with the Dietarian Identity Questionnaire as means of assessing one’s food-choice identity. No study, to date, has described dietarian identity in an adolescent population. Objective: To assess the following aspects of the dietarian identity of New Zealand adolescent females in following their dietary pattern: centrality, prosocial motivation (the desire to benefit others), moral motivation (the beliefs of rightness and wrongness), and strictness. Secondly, to test the hypothesis that adolescent girls with strong prosocial motivation also reflect this motivation in their dietary habits by consuming less meat but more fruits and vegetables. Thirdly, to examine the relationships between the motivation subscales of dietarian identity and other variables hypothesized to be related to these motivation aspects (i.e. the ethical food choice motives). Design: A cross-sectional, multi-centered nationwide study of New Zealand adolescent females, aged 15 to 18 years was conducted. All data were collected using self-reported online questionnaires except for anthropometry measurements. Included in the online questionnaires were four dietarian identity subscales (centrality, prosocial motivation, moral motivation, and strictness) derived from the Dietarian Identity Questionnaire by Rosenfeld and Burrow (2). Frequency of fruit, vegetables, and meat consumption to determine participants’ usual consumption; and two subscales of the ethical food choice motives questionnaire (ecological welfare and religion) by Lindeman and Väänänen (1) were also self-administered. Correlations were investigated among the dietarian identity subscales and the other variables with which they were hypothesized to be related. Results: In general, the adolescent girls tended to view their dietary pattern as not particularly central to their identity, showed flexibility in adhering to their dietary pattern, and were motivated in their food choices towards a similar lesser extent by prosocial and moral reasons. Prosocial motivation level was also inversely associated with the girls’ usual consumption of red meat, pork, and poultry. When relationships with food choice ethical issues were examined, both prosocial motivation and moral motivation levels were shown to be positively associated with levels of concern regarding animal welfare and environmental protection. Conclusion: The present sample of adolescent females were predominantly meat-eaters with only 6% vegetarians. Overall, these girls showed low level disagreement to “neither agree nor disagree” that the centrality, prosocial motivation, moral motivation and strictness factors were important to them in their dietary pattern. Future studies should consider exploring these concepts in a larger sample, comparing with boys, or with more aspects of the Dietarian Identity Questionnaire to better understand the self-perceptions of the adolescent population regarding their eating pattern.
Advisor: Horwath, Caroline
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Department of Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Dietarian identity; New Zealand; adolescent females; dietary pattern
Research Type: Thesis