Psychosocial factors in nutrition education for hypercholesterolemic children

Susan M. McHale, Andrew M. Tershakovec, Devon A. Corneal, Barbara A. Tournier, Barbara M. Shannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The goals were to assess psychosocial effects of labeling children as hypercholesterolemic and to measure changes in child well-being as a function of participation in nutrition education interventions. Older (6-10 years old) and younger (4-6 years old) children with (>4.55 mmol/l; >176 mg/dL) and without elevated total cholesterol levels were identified by cholesterol screening. Psychosocial functioning (self-esteem, perceived dietary competence, health beliefs, parental control of eating) was assessed and at- risk children were randomized into a home-based, self-contained nutrition education program (the Parent-Child Autotutorial, or PCAT program), dietary counseling with a registered dietician, or an at-risk control group. At three, six, and twelve months following baseline, children's psychosocial functioning again was assessed; parents also provided data at baseline, three months, and twelve months. Analyses of data from 189 at-risk and 74 not-at- risk children revealed that: (a) Older hypercholesterolemic children reported poorer health beliefs than non-labeled children; (b) Older girls in nutrition education programs reported lower self-esteem than control group girls; (c) Older children's feelings of efficacy at choosing a healthful diet were positively related to their health beliefs and self-esteem; (d) Younger children's reports of parents' dietary control were negatively related to children's feelings of acceptance; and (e) Parents of older children in the PCAT program reported increases over time in children's ability to choose a healthful diet. The quasi-experimental design means that conclusions about negative labeling effects should be drawn cautiously but the evidence suggests that education interventions can have an impact on child efficacy and potentially child adjustment. Factors associated with adverse reactions to labeling (parental control or feelings of efficacy) should be taken into account in the development of intervention programs for children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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