Low income African American adolescent girl's eating choices

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Jenkins, Sandra Kay, 1956-

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The aim of this exploratory qualitative study is to identify the problems African American adolescent girls face in making eating choices and to learn how they make decisions about eating. Differences related to culture and socioeconomic status influences, and decision-making strategies were explored. Three sites in African American communities were selected for focus groups and individual adolescent girl-parent dyad interviews for data collection. Data were gathered in 5 focus groups and 4 individual adolescent girl-parent dyad interviews with African American adolescents (n=30). Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory (EST) provided the conceptual framework for informing the analysis and interpretation of the data. Using grounded theory methods, the researcher identified the core variable or basic psychosocial problem that faced the participants was receiving mixed messages. Low income African American adolescent girls receive mixed messages about nutrition, health and foods from their microsystems that are comprised of friends and family, and from macrosystems that include textbooks and the media. Filtering the mixed messages is the basic psychosocial process that low income African American girls use to handle the barrage of mixed messages they receive from their microsystems and macrosystems regarding eating choices and exosystem influences. The process of filtering the mixed messages is comprised of five phases: Applying a lens, surveying available resources, weighing influences, then choosing alternating eating strategies and evaluating their eating choices. How the adolescent girl applies a lens, surveys resources and weighs the influences together impact the alternating eating strategies that they implement. Over time they evaluate the effectiveness of their eating choices.