Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)

School

School of Exercise and Health Sciences

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Stacey Waters

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Amanda Devine

Third Advisor

Ms Margaret Miller

Abstract

Background: Poor dietary choices and increasingly sedentary lifestyles mean childhood obesity is an increasing problem. Parents have the capacity to significantly affect the food choice of children; therefore by improving their self-efficacy, their nutrition knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, and by providing access to sound nutritional information, the health of children may be improved.

Purpose: This research sought to gather preliminary information required to inform the development of nutrition education materials for parents, which will parallel those currently under development for teaching children in schools as part of the Australian curriculum. Research has demonstrated that while educating children about healthy eating is important, it is imperative to engage parents for optimum behaviour change.

Aim: To explore parental self-efficacy to provide a healthy diet for their children and how this is related to their knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, with the aim of developing recommendations for future nutrition education interventions for families.

Design and methods: This was a mixed methods study, consisting of a sample of parents of children in years 4, 5 and 6 from 56 Western Australian primary schools. A quantitative survey examined their levels nutritional knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, as well as their self-efficacy. Knowledge, attitudes and behaviours were scored, as was self-efficacy. Participants were divided into low, medium and high self-efficacy terciles, according to their scores from a self-efficacy questionnaire. Telephone interviews were conducted with five participants from each tercile, to explore perceived facilitators and barriers to healthy food provision, as well as current sources of nutrition information, and the acceptability of parental nutrition resources aligned with the school curriculum.

Results: Knowledge, attitudes and behaviour scores were high in this sample, with most variation in participant‟s self-efficacy scores. Only “choice behaviours”, those behaviours relating to food choice, were predictive of self-efficacy, and barriers and facilitators identified by the sample were similar across all terciles. The means of overcoming barriers, however, changed according to levels of self-efficacy. Parents identified media sources as their most commonly utilised source of nutritional information, and were open to the idea of nutrition resources aligned to the school curriculum, with online materials favoured.

Conclusion: The results show parental self-efficacy is an important determinant in the provision of a healthy diet for families, and may be predicted by parents‟ food choice behaviours. Qualitative data showed parental nutrition resources would be welcomed by parents in medium and low self-efficacy terciles, highlighting the need for education targeted toward different self-efficacy terciles.

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