Examining Associations between Parental and Peer Social Support and Positive Health Behaviors in Adolescents
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Parental and peer support has been shown to have an influence on adolescent dietary and physical activity behaviors. However, these associations have not been fully elucidated in multi-ethnic populations in early and late adolescence, and few studies have examined parental/peer support in school-based interventions that include a parental component in adolescent populations. The objective of this article is to present the results of two studies that examine the relationships between parental and peer support and adolescent diet and physical activity behaviors. The aim of the first study was to investigate associations between parental/peer social support, and adolescent’s physical activity and dietary behaviors, utilizing the School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) survey data, collected from 8th and 11th graders in 2009-2011. The SPAN survey is a cross-sectional statewide probability-based survey, used to assess obesity-related behaviors. Results from this study revealed that parental and peer support is associated with healthier dietary and physical activity behaviors in adolescents. The objective of the second study was to understand the dietary, physical activity, and weight-related effects of a school-based intervention with a parental support component on adolescents using the CATCH Middle School Project. The CATCH Middle School Project is a school-based health program to promote obesity prevention and related behaviors (diet, physical activity) among middle school 8th grade students living in central Texas. A group-randomized serial cross-sectional design was used to evaluate the effect of three program conditions. Adolescents in the intervention condition with a parental support component experienced the greatest significant increases in fruit, vegetable, and water consumption, as well as reporting an increase in overall support from parents. Data from these studies show: (1) parental/peer support is associated with healthier obesity-related behaviors, and (2) including parents in a school-based intervention program was shown to increase the healthfulness of adolescents’ diets. Future research should focus on strategies to increase parental/peer support for healthy eating and physical activity behaviors that could potentially be integrated into school health programs for adolescents.