Demographic and family factors affecting nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of adolescents in Taiwan

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Chen, H. H., Lin, W., & Chou, L. T.

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Objectives: To understand the current status and factors related to nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among high school students in Taiwan. Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out using nationally representative subjects from Taiwan. Questionnaires assessing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding food and nutrition were administered to 2777 students in grades eight and eleven. The students were obtained from fifteen junior high schools, six senior high schools, six vocational schools, and four five-year colleges using a multistage-stratified sampling method. Descriptive analysis, Pearson correlation, and linear regression were used to analyze the data. Results: The correct or positive response rates for nutritional knowledge, attitude, and behavior scales were 49.7%, 69.0%, and 56.5%, respectively. More than half of the adolescents expected to be thin and had tried to lose weight. 88.7% of the adolescents surveyed had never attended a food or nutrition-related course. These students scored significantly lower in nutritional knowledge, held less positive attitudes, and performed worse on the behavior scale than those who had attended nutrition-related courses. The influence of family factors on nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among Taiwanese adolescents was as important as demographic variables. Grade, metropolitan area (vs. rural townships), parental control, family communication, and attitude were found to be direct and modest determinants of nutritional behavior in this study. Sex, BMI, and parents’ SES were related with attitudes that predict behavior. Conclusions: Nutrition-related courses designed to improve dietary behaviors of adolescents should emphasize attitudes throughout the school system. In addition, families should take a more active role in improving their relations with children.