Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Mary Ann Bass

Committee Members

Grayce E. Goertz, A. Paul Wishart, Jane Savage, Dean Champion


Food and nutrition misconceptions, food and nutrition-related interests, and information sources of 185, tenth through twelfth grade students from a selected sample of Knoxville, Tennessee, high schools were studied. Relevant information was obtained through the development and administration of a questionnaire designed to distinguish between level of food and nutrition knowledge and degree of subscription to misconceptions, to determine which topics within the realm of food and nutrition were of interest to the teenage population, and to ascertain sources of information for the various categories of food and nutrition knowledge.

Students of both sexes and of all grade levels were found to possess a limited knowledge of food and nutrition and to maintain a considerable subscription to misconceptions. The mean misconception score for the total population was 14.9 ± 6.2 out of a possible score of 56. The greatest proportion of misconceptions were found in the areas of Foods My Body Needs (33.5 percent misconceptions) and Diet and Weight-Watching (32.1 percent misconceptions). Significant differences ( ≤ .05 ) in misconception scores were observed among the four schools but differences between sexes and across grade levels were not significant.

The mean knowledge score for the population was 17.0 + 6.2 out of a possible 56. Differences were not observed between sexes nor among grade levels. Knowledge scores were positively associated with degree of training in chemistry ( 𝛾 = +0.37) and biology ( 𝛾 = +0.38) but were not significantly associated with amount of training in home economics or health.

High interest in a variety of food and nutrition-related topics was observed among the teenage students. Girls, in general, found topics more interesting than did boys but the differences were slight. High interest in topics under the categories of Foods My Body Needs and Miscellaneous was positively associated with number of misconceptions in those areas ( 𝛾 = +0.34 and 𝛾 = +0.20, respectively).

Information relating to food and nutrition was obtained by the teenagers from a variety of sources but most frequently mentioned sources for all but one category of information, i.e., Organic and Health Foods, were parents and medical doctors or nurses. Information sources for boys and girls and among grade levels were significantly different for several categories of information. With only one exception, misconceptions in the various categories were not significantly associated with any particular information source.

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