Purpose: The study objectives are: (1) to examine and compare patterns of covariation of a wide range of health behaviors among adolescent boys and girls; (2) to determine whether eating behaviors are part of a larger construct of health-related behaviors and to identify the behaviors with which they share underlying similarities; and (3) to determine whether youth engaging in other health-compromising behaviors are at risk for unhealthy eating. Methods: Data were analyzed from the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey, a classroom-administered questionnaire, completed by 36,284 adolescents, in grades 7-12 from 1986-87. Results: Among boys, factor analysis revealed five factors: (1) risk-taking behaviors, (2) school- related behaviors, (3) 'quietly' disturbed behaviors (e.g., frequent dieting, self-induced vomiting, suicide attempts), (4) health-promoting behaviors; and (5) exercise. Eating behaviors loaded on the construct of health-promoting behaviors with brushing teeth and seat belt use. Among girls, four similar factors emerged; however, exercise loaded on the construct of health- promoting behaviors. Therefore, eating behaviors loaded with brushing teeth, seat belt use, and exercise among girls. Logistic regression analyses, controlling for sociodemographic and personal variables, revealed that boys and girls engaging in health-promoting behaviors were less likely to have unhealthy eating behaviors, while those engaging in quietly disturbed behaviors, risk-taking behaviors, and problematic school behaviors were more likely to have unhealthy eating behaviors. Conclusions: Eating behaviors appear to be part of a health-promoting behavioral construct and should not be viewed in isolation from other behaviors. Although eating behaviors do not appear to be part of the 'problem behavior syndrome,' youth engaging in a wide range of health-compromising behaviors are at risk for unhealthy eating; emphasizing the need to target high-risk youth with health promotion programs.
- Adolescent health
- Health-compromising behaviors
- Risk-taking behavior