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Prev Med. 2004 May;38 Suppl:S78-87.

Social desirability bias in self-reported dietary, physical activity and weight concerns measures in 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls: results from the Girls Health Enrichment Multisite Studies (GEMS).

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Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, 38163, USA.



Social desirability (SocD) may bias children's self-reported health behaviors and attitudes and confound relationships with health outcome measures.


Ninety-five, 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls completed dietary recalls, a physical activity checklist, psychosocial questionnaires related to diet, and physical activity; and 3 days of physical activity monitoring. Potential SocD construct bias was investigated by comparing designated criterion measures of physical activity, beverage intake, and body mass index (BMI) with respective self-reported measures related to activity, beverage preferences, and body image and weight concerns in cross-sectional regression models. Potential confounding by SocD of associations between self-reported behaviors with BMI was assessed using change-in-coefficient regression analyses.


Controlling for age and BMI, overestimates of self-reported activity (P = 0.02), underestimates of sweetened beverage preferences (P = 0.02), and lower ratings of weight concerns and dieting behaviors (P's < 0.05) were related to SocD. Confounding by SocD of associations between self-reported physical activity and energy intake with BMI was found.


In 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls, SocD was found to bias self-reports of diet and physical activity and confound associations between BMI and self-reported physical activity and energy intake. Methods to measure and control SocD bias are needed to reduce potential distortion of relationships between diet and physical activity and health outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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