Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Virginia Salzer

Abstract

In the United States, adolescent obesity rates continue to increase unabated, yet there is a paucity of programs to address these conditions for this population. The current study evaluated an after-school program in California high schools that uses a mentoring model with youth to promote regular exercise and healthy food choices. It is grounded in Social Cognitive Theory which focuses on both the impact of the environment on shaping behaviors and the ability of an individual to construct his or her own suitable environment. A quantitative single-group pretestâ??posttest design using archived participant responses was utilized in order to determine whether the program was effective in changing nutrition and fitness behaviors. Data from The Food Behavior Checklist, The Perceived Self-Descriptive Questionnaire, and the Nutrition Knowledge Checklist (N = 93) was used to obtain the answers to 5 research hypotheses. Paired sample t-tests and mediational analyses (using multiple regression) were conducted. The findings showed that participants in the program increased fruit and vegetable consumption, levels of physical activity, and the quality of their diet but had no significant effect on their perception of general fitness. It is clear that programs such as this one can be effective in altering the health behaviors of adolescents. The results of this study will positively contribute to social change by providing empirical support for the effectiveness of an intervention to improve nutrition and fitness activities in adolescents and modeling healthy behaviors to families and communities in an effort to reduce not only early-age mortality but also the increased health care costs associated with obesity.

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