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Br J Nutr. 2016 Jan 14;115(1):168-75. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515003992. Epub 2015 Oct 9.

Do descriptive norms related to parents and friends predict fruit and vegetable intake similarly among 11-year-old girls and boys?

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1Folkhälsan Research Center,Topeliuksenkatu 20,00250 Helsinki,Finland.
3Department of Social Research,University of Helsinki,00014 University of Helsinki,Helsinki,Finland.
4School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science,Örebro University,Campus Grythyttan,701 82 Örebro,Sweden.
5Unit for Nutrition Research,Landspitali University Hospital,101 Reykjavik, Iceland & Faculty of Food Science and Nutrition,School of Health Sciences,University of Iceland,101 Reykjavik,Iceland.


We examined whether there are sex differences in children's fruit and vegetable (FV) intake and in descriptive norms (i.e. perceived FV intake) related to parents and friends. We also studied whether friends' impact is as important as that of parents on children's FV intake. Data from the PRO GREENS project in Finland were obtained from 424 children at the age 11 years at baseline. At baseline, 2009 children filled in a questionnaire about descriptive norms conceptualised as perceived FV intake of their parents and friends. They also filled in a validated FFQ that assessed their FV intake both at baseline and in the follow-up in 2010. The associations were examined with multi-level regression analyses with multi-group comparisons. Girls reported higher perceived FV intake of friends and higher own fruit intake at baseline, compared with boys, and higher vegetable intake both at baseline and in the follow-up. Perceived FV intake of parents and friends was positively associated with both girls' and boys' FV intake in both study years. The impact of perceived fruit intake of the mother was stronger among boys. The change in children's FV intake was affected only by perceived FV intake of father and friends. No large sex differences in descriptive norms were found, but the impact of friends on children's FV intake can generally be considered as important as that of parents. Future interventions could benefit from taking into account friends' impact as role models on children's FV intake.


Children; Descriptive norms; FV fruit and vegetable; Friends; Fruit and vegetable intake; Parents; Sex differences

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