Date of Award

Summer 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Services Research

Committee Director

Stacey B. Plichta

Committee Member

Clare Houseman

Committee Member

Laurel Garzon


This study examined the usefulness of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) to model fast-food intake, fruit/vegetable consumption, and regular physical activity among a group of Chinese-American children in a Southeastern Virginia urban area.

An observational cross-sectional survey research design and snowball sampling were used. The survey employed items from the Health Behavior Questionnaire, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and a 24-hour Diet Recall Form. Eighty-four children completed the self-administered survey; 54 of these were enrolled in a Chinese Weekend School. The mean age of the children was 10.5 years (range 6-18) and 43% were girls. Logistic regression models were used to examine the predictors of eating and exercise behaviors; findings at p

Sufficient vegetable/fruit intake was more likely in children who were cared for by family members after school (OR=3.6, 90% CI=1.26-10.03). Increased fast-food intake was more likely in children who had stayed in the USA for a shorter time (OR =3.4, 90% CI=1.33-8.77). Sufficient vigorous activity was more likely in children with positive physical activity self-efficacy (OR=3.29, 90% CI=1.16-9.31). Sufficient overall activity was also more likely in children with positive self-efficacy for physical activity (OR=3.00, 90% CI=1.03-8.77) and positive social support for exercise (OR=4.58, 90% CI=1.22-17.15). Models are also controlled for age and gender.

Findings from this study provide limited to moderate support for the use of SCT in explaining health behaviors. The findings support the use of SCT because variables from the personal construct (self-efficacy) and the environmental construct (social support) were found associated with health behaviors. The findings also support the association between the personal construct (knowledge) and the environmental construct (parents' education). It suggests that family members play a very important role in children's health behaviors and that new immigrant children are at risk of higher fast food consumption. Further research is needed to explore the significant relationships in a larger sample.





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