Sarah Dreifke

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Barrett, Sheila

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Health Studies


College students--Nutrition; Food habits


Shaping behavior begins at an early age. Parents and caregivers serve as role models for children in forming behaviors, as well as eating habits. The social context in which children's eating patterns develop is important because the eating behavior of people in that environment serves as a model for the developing child. Few studies have observed the longitudinal impact of these influences in adulthood, specifically in college students. While the limited number of studies observing this relationship have found associations between the child home food environment and later eating behaviors, diet quality and body composition have yet to be extensively examined. Additionally, current means of analyzing the "child home food environment" have been narrowly focused on controlling parental feeding practices, failing to consider other relevant constructs such as food availability and accessibility, parental modeling, education and child involvement. The purpose of this study was to further explore these possible long-term impacts of parent and caregiver influences during childhood. A cross-sectional random sample of current Northern Illinois University college students and their childhood caregivers was utilized. One-hundred and five NIU students participated in the study. Dietary information and body composition measures were obtained using a detailed 24-hour food recall, a short food frequency questionnaire, and the InBody 520 body composition machine. A total of 74 caregivers responded to a retrospective survey, which aimed to gather data about the student's child home food environment. Significant associations were found between caregiver feeding practices and diet quality, body composition and self-efficacy. Use of certain positive feeding practices were negatively associated with percent body fat (p=0.047), waist circumference (p=0.046) and perceived healthy food barriers (p=0.008), and positively associated with consumption of green vegetables and beans (p=0.045) and consumption of dairy (p=0.016). No significant associations were found between positive caregiver feeding practices and overall diet quality. Use of negative feeding practices yielded some mixed results. Body mass index was positively associated with using food as a reward (p=0.003) and restriction for weight (p=0.013), but negatively associated with emotional regulation (p=0.027) and pressuring to eat (p=0.030). Waist circumference was positively associated with using food as a reward (p=0.001), but negatively associated with emotional regulation (p=0.021), pressuring to eat (p=0.025) and restriction for weight (p=0.020). The complexities of the food environment are evident. However, the findings of this study highlight the importance of the child home food environment and the possible positive and negative impacts it can serve past childhood and adolescence into early adulthood. The influences around diet quality, body composition, and self-efficacy merits further exploration for this population in transition between childhood and adulthood independence.


Advisors: Sheila Barrett; Priyanka Ghosh Roy.||Committee members: Peter Chomentowski.


vi, 105 pages




Northern Illinois University

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