257844 “She looks out for the meals, period”: African American men's perceptions of how their wives influence their eating behavior and dietary health

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 10:30 AM - 10:50 AM

Julie Ober Allen, MPH , School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Derek M. Griffith, PhD , School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
INTRODUCTION. African American men are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases associated with unhealthy eating. Women play a critical role in men's dietary health, but the nature and mechanisms of wives' influence on men's eating behavior is not well understood, especially from men's perspectives. This study examines how African American men described roles their wives played in shaping their eating behavior. METHODS. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze data from nine exploratory focus groups conducted with 83 middle aged or older, African American men from southeast Michigan. RESULTS. Men described traditional, gendered food roles at home and were satisfied that their wives played a dominant role in household food preparation and decision making. The men indicated their wives influenced what they ate at home more than their own preferences, though they perceived more freedom to choose preferred, usually unhealthy, foods outside the home, even when accompanied by their wives. Men had mixed feelings about wives' efforts to prepare healthier meals at home. While they appreciated that their wives cared about their health, the men felt they were rarely consulted on how meals could be made healthier and often disliked the food changes their wives made. Men prioritized keeping their wives happy, preserving spousal division of roles, and maintaining marital harmony over participating in food decision making or expressing their preferences. DISCUSSION. Consistent with Interdependence Theory, our findings showed that married men may be more influenced by pro-relationship objectives than a desire to actively participate in food decision making at home.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe key ways African American men report that their wives influence their eating behaviors; 2. Analyze men’s emotional and behavioral responses to wives’ efforts to improve the health of their diet and eating behaviors; and 3. Demonstrate Interdependence Theory as a useful framework for examining and understanding the multitude of mechanisms and pathways through which marital relationships affect men’s eating behaviors.

Keywords: Food and Nutrition, Male Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My research examines how social, cultural, economic and historical factors influence health behaviors, outcomes, and disparities, particularly related to chronic disease risk among Black American men.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.