U.S. adolescents from racial/ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds consume energy-dense, nutrient-poor (EDNP) snacks, and this is associated with poor overall diet quality and obesity. What remains less clear are factors that influence snacking behaviors among this population.
To qualitatively explore factors that influence the snacking behaviors of adolescents from low SES backgrounds in New York City (NYC).
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Adolescents (12-18 years) were recruited from a NYC Boys & Girls Club (proxy for low SES) to participate in a semi-structured, qualitative phone interview. The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) informed the development of the interview guide, such that adolescents were asked about personal cognitive, environmental (social and physical), and behavioral factors that influence snacking.
Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed in NVivo 12® using the thematic analysis approach. Emergent themes were categorized into a priori categories based on SCT constructs.
Participants (n = 16) were predominantly male (63%) and Black (81%), with a mean age of 14.9 years. Regarding personal cognitive factors, adolescents’ snacking was influenced by preference (eg, taste, brand), health benefits (eg, more energy), and health concerns (eg, fear of weight gain/diabetes). Regarding the social environment, adolescents remarked that snacking with peers promoted unhealthy snacking, while snacking with family promoted healthier snacking. Adolescents also discussed how their physical environment fostered unhealthy snacking. One adolescent stated, “The amount of bodegas compared to the amount of supermarkets that are in my community, the ratio is completely unbalanced...there's a lot of unhealthy choices in my community.” Concerning behavioral factors, adolescents referenced having high purchasing power and autonomy to choose snacks: “I have my own money, so I would go out to the grocery store [to buy snacks].”
There is a need for culturally tailored interventions targeting snacking behaviors of adolescents from low SES backgrounds that acknowledge personal cognitive, environmental, and behavioral factors.