Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Katherine Kavanagh-Prochaska

Committee Members

Sarah Colby, Marsha Spence


Background: Intentions towards feeding a future child may develop prior to conception. The Theory of Planned Behavior suggests that internal and external factors contribute to behavioral intentions. Among pre- and post-natal populations, negative body image has been identified as a potential barrier to breastfeeding intention. Though negative body image is of concern among young adult females, little is known about how this may relate to future breastfeeding intentions.

Research Objective: To explore possible relationships between intention to breastfeed, accuracy of body size estimation (BSE), and body size satisfaction (BSS) among a sample of freshman undergraduate females, and to identify other factors potentially related to future intent, BSE, and BSS.

Methods: Secondary data analysis was used to explore these objectives using a preexisting dataset from a population of college-aged females.

Results: No relationship was detected between accuracy of BSE or BSS and breastfeeding intent. Prior breastfeeding exposure was significantly, positively, associated with breastfeeding intent (p=0.001) and race (p=0.032). Breastfeeding intention varied by racial group, with White respondents significantly more likely to intend to breastfeed, as compared to Asian respondents (p=0.004). Calculated BMI was significantly associated with accurate BSE (p=0.001); overweight respondents were significantly less able (p=0.008) and obese respondents were significantly more able (p=0.001) to accurately estimate their body size compared to normal weight respondents. BSS was related to race (p=0.006), BMI (p=0.001), and SES (p=0.003). No differences in future intent, BSE, or BSS were found by ethnic group.

Conclusion: These results help Identify potential barriers to breastfeeding intention, especially when opinions are forming. Prior breastfeeding exposure and race were positively associated with future intent. No relationship was detected between intention and other factors such as ethnicity, region of residence, and income status. Despite the relationship between body size factors (i.e., perception, satisfaction, weight status) and breastfeeding intent described among pre- and post-natal populations, no such relationships were found with intent in this sample of female college freshmen. The relationship between body size factors and race was unsurprising; the relationship between these factors and income status in a population of freshman undergraduate students may be important for future study.

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Included in

Nutrition Commons