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Food Stud. 2011;1(4):45-54.

Beliefs Underlying the Decision to Eat Breakfast: The Role of Theory-based Behavioral Analysis in the Development of Policy, Communication and Educational Interventions for Healthy Eating.

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Indiana University, USA.


Policy, communication, and education efforts to influence any social or health outcome are more effective if based on an understanding of the underlying behaviors and their determinants. This conceptual paper outlines how behavioral theory can help design interventions for one healthy eating behavior, eating breakfast. More specifically, the paper illustrates how a prominent health behavior theory, the Reasoned Action Approach, can be used to guide formative research to identify factors underlying people's decisions. Select findings are presented from three studies of beliefs underlying eating breakfast: online surveys with 1185 undergraduates from a large university in Indiana; in-depth interviews with 61 adults from four Indiana worksites; and 63 in-depth interviews with students from three middle schools in rural Indiana. Analyses of data from the undergraduates demonstrated the role of self-efficacy. Analyses of data from the working adults revealed the importance of normative beliefs about what employers believed. Analyses comparing consequences perceived by adults with those perceived by middle school students found that both groups believed that eating breakfast would provide energy but only middle school students believed that eating breakfast would improve alertness. For each finding, the theory is presented, the finding is described, implications for interventions are suggested, and the need for additional research is outlined. In sum, theory-based behavioral research can help develop interventions at intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental levels that are warranted to encourage healthy eating.


Behavioral Analysis; Breakfast Consumption; Health Behavior Theory; Public Health Interventions; Reasoned Action Approach


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