Social Environment of Children’s and Adolescents’ Snack Intake: Individual Moderators of Actual Group-norms
1University of Konstanz, Germany
1Babes-Bolyai University, Romania
3National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
Background: In schools, perceived behavior or attitudes of classmates can facilitate but also inhibit unhealthy food intake of children and adolescents. The present study examined the association between actual attitudes of classmates and food intake. In addition, such normative effects may be facilitated by matching food preferences of the individual and class as well as a positive social self-concept indicating perceived group inclusion. Methods: 2118 Finnish, German, and Romanian children and adolescents (aged 8-19) of 127 school classes were asked to indicate their food preference, social self-concept, and snack intake. Findings: Multilevel-analyses indicated that class members share 14.7% snacking variance. Moreover, unhealthy food class preference is associated with classes’ snacking (?²(1) = 54.67, p < .000, pseudo-?R² = .35). This effect was facilitated by individual unhealthy food preferences (?²(1) = 17.67, p < .000, pseudo-R² = .55) and a positive social self-concept (?²(1) = 4.97, p = .025, pseudo-R² = .17). Discussion: Overall, while actual class norms are important for children’s and adolescents’ food intake, individual differences moderate the effect of social norms.