Second Major



Greaney, Mary

Advisor Department





adolescence; health behavior; nutrition; physical activity; family functioning

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Background: The obesity epidemic has been a concern across the globe, affecting about 20% of adolescents in the U.S. Physical activity and nutrition-related behaviors that develop during adolescence carry through into adulthood. Adolescents’ perceptions of how their family functions may be associated with health behaviors, including physical activity and diet.

Objective: To determine whether there is an association between perceived family functioning and adolescent health behaviors among a national sample of adolescents aged 11 to 16 who participated in the 2009-2010 Health Behaviors of School-Aged Children survey.

Methods: Participants reported on demographics and measures of family function, which included satisfaction with family relationships (very satisfied, satisfied, not satisfied) and mother/father knowledge of daily life (knowledge of friends, money spending; and time spent during free time, at night, and after school). In addition, adolescents reported on levels of physical activity and frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption. A series of analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) models were constructed to examine the associations between the measures of family function and health behaviors, controlling for socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and age. Separate models were conducted for males and females.

Results: Participants (n=12,624) were racially diverse (52% white, 20% African American, 27% other) and 26% identified as Hispanic/Latino. Sixty-five percent of participants reported being satisfied with family relationships, 34% reported that their mothers were very knowledgeable of their daily life, while 21% reported that their fathers were very knowledgeable. Results of the ANCOVAs determined that all three family function measures were associated with physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption. Individuals who reported greater satisfaction with their family relationships and whose mother and/or father were more knowledgeable about their lives were more physically active and consumed more fruits and vegetables (p<0.05).

Conclusion: Study results suggest that family functioning may be a significant factor in determining adolescent healthful behavior. Family function may be helpful when understanding the process of adolescent development and internalization of health behaviors. Further research may include family-centered interventions to increase positive family function.