University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
  • University College London
Supervisors/Advisors
  • O'Connell, Rebecca, Supervisor, External person
  • Brannen, Julia, Supervisor, External person
  • Simon, Antonia, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
  • European Research Council
Award date28 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Abstract

In the UK there are well recognised socio-economic inequalities in diet and health. However, research about dietary inequalities rarely focuses on young people. Whilst some qualitative research has studied how low-income families manage food and eating, less has examined or compared young people’s food practices in more affluent families. This study takes a mixed methods approach to examine the role of family income and other factors in understanding the food and eating practices of young people (aged 11 – 16 years) in higher-income and lower-income families at home and school. To examine the relationship with young people’s diet quality, secondary analyses of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS; 2008/09 - 2013/14) was carried out. To explore the ways in which young people’s diets and food practices are shaped by different contexts, the study employed a case approach using a range of qualitative methods with young people in six higher and 30 lower-income families from one inner London borough. Quantitative analyses of the NDNS show that as household income increases young people’s diet quality also increases. Other factors also appeared to be important: family food purchasing, the young person’s sex, takeaway consumption and mothers’ employment. The qualitative analyses of cases found that lower family income generally constrained the household food budget, limiting young people’s access to quality fresh food. In contrast, higher family income meant families spent more on food and young people had greater access to more nutritious foods. Mothers’ working hours and family food practices related to parental ethnicity were also important. Whilst challenges of bringing together the different data and analyses are noted, it is argued that, in combination, they provide a fuller and more nuanced picture of the ways in which income and other factors influence the diets and food practices of young people.

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