Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Marjorie P. Penfield

Committee Members

Jo Lynn Cunningham, Nell Logan, Jane R. Savage, Roy Beauchene, Jim Scheiner


Young adults who responded to a short survey about food habits were divided into two groups, conformists and nonconformists, on the basis of their reported consumption of selected foods and food groups. Nonconformists were defined as those who avoided culturally accepted foods and/or preferred foods considered natural, organic, or health foods. Data were collected on the sociodemographic characteristics, food and nutrition attitudes/beliefs, food-related attitudes, nutrition knowledge, value systems, food preferences, time and money allocations, food consumption patterns, and perceived well-being of 84 conformists and 75 nonconformists.

Univariate and multivariate analyses of variance and chi-square analyses, with conformance group and gender as the independent variables, were used to determine differences among the groups. Nonconformists were older, had completed more years of education, worked more hours per week, and had higher incomes than conformists. More nonconformists than conformists reported non-Christian religious orientations and had spent their childhood years outside the Southeastern states.

Differences between conformance groups were found in food acceptance, food and nutrition attitudes/beliefs, food-related attitudes and food preferences, nutrition knowledge, perceived nutritional adequacy of the diet, time and money allocations, and instrumental value systems. Foods avoided by nonconformists included meats, refined foods, and sweetened foods. Nonconformists ate more fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, and legumes than did conformists. Nonconformists believed in health foods; distrusted food processing, additives, and synthetic vitamins; and recognized weight control misconceptions more than conformists did. Nonconformists tended to rate foods they avoided as less healthful/nutritious and less preferred/accepted than conformists rated those foods. Nutrition knowledge of both groups was low; nonconformists received slightly higher scores than conformists. Nonconformists rated their diets as more adequate nutritionally than conformists rated theirs. Nonconformists reported having changed their food consumption patterns more since childhood than conformists did, decreasing use of foods they avoided and increasing use of foods they regarded as more healthful/nutritious.

Nonconformists reported spending a larger proportion of their income on housing and on medical, dental, and optical expenses than conformists reported. Nonconformists used more time for work or professional activities and for food preparation, shopping, and cleaning than did conformists. Instrumental value systems differed in that nonconformists ranked the values broadminded, imaginative, independent, and intellectual higher than did conformists.

Men and women were different in use of time and money, recognition of weight control misconceptions, instrumental values, food preferences, and food acceptance. Men used more beef, nuts and seeds, and regular soft drinks than did women. Women used more low-calorie soft drinks than did men.

Because of the differences in value systems, food and nutrition attitudes/beliefs, and food-related attitudes, different educational approaches should be appropriate for each group. Causes of changes in food consumption patterns between childhood and adulthood remain to be determined.

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