Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Betty Ruth Carruth

Committee Members

Jean Skinner, Ronald Taylor, Priscilla White Blanton


The influence of television, parents, and peers on the food choices of 79 pregnant adolescents, aged 14 to 18, was studied. Two 24-hour diet recalls and a two-day food record, questionnaires about television viewing habits and communication with parents and peers relating to food selection and food purchasing, and semi-structured interview regarding television commercials were administered in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Adolescents consumed 38% of their calories and 36% to 41% of total vitamin and mineral intake per day while watching television. Foods consumed while watching television were significantly lower (P=0.03) in fat than foods consumed while not watching television. Popular snacks consumed while watching television included sweets/desserts, potato and corn chips, popcorn, carbonated beverages, fruits and vegetables and breads and cereals.

Television viewing was not significantly related to caloric intake, weight gain during pregnancy, or nutrient density of the diet. A preference for name brands over generics was reported, although the heavily advertised brand was not perceived as more nutritious, of better quality, and a better value than the generic brand. The most frequently advertised snack foods were not necessarily the snacks chosen. The lack of television advertising effect on nutrient density of the diet and the preference for name brands suggest that advertising may influence brand preference specifically.

One-half of the adolescents discussed food purchasing and advertisements with parents and 80% helped parents with food selection at least sometimes. Results also indicated that parents do not recommend or control food purchases adolescents make for themselves. The frequency of communication with parents was not associated with the consumption of heavily advertised foods.

Communication with peers about food selection and food advertisements was generally infrequent. Fifty-seven percent to 73% responded rarely or never and 27% to 43% reported at least sometimes talking with peers about buying food, foods to by at fast food restaurants, food advertisements, and asking for or receiving advice from friends about snack choices.

The lack of a statistically significant advertising effect on food-related behaviors does not mean that television advertising does not have indirect effects. Television commercials may promote purchase of the advertised by increasing product awareness and emphasizing product attractiveness.

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