Online Program

“It really relies on the wife to get men to eat healthy”: African American men's and women's perceptions of how wives influence men's eating behavior and dietary health

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Julie Ober Allen, MPH, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Derek Griffith, Ph.D., Institute for Research on Men's Health, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Daphne C. Watkins, PhD, 3841 Sswb, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Women play a critical role in men’s dietary health, but the nature and mechanisms of wives’ influence on men’s eating behavior are not well understood.  This study compares how middle-aged and older African American men and important women in their lives describe wives’ influence on men’s eating behaviors. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze data from exploratory focus groups conducted in southeast Michigan: nine groups with 83 African American men and eight groups with 77 African American women. Men and women described traditional, gendered food roles at home and reported that wives played a dominant role in household food decision making. Men felt they had little influence over what they ate at home, yet wives explained that they endeavored to identify foods men would eat and to provide healthier foods out of concern for their husbands’ health. Couples rarely engaged in open dialogue about men’s eating behaviors, though both men and women described men’s dietary health as a shared responsibility. Changes toward healthier food offerings in the home resulted from a combination of women’s concerns about men’s health and men prioritization of preserving the spousal division of roles and maintaining marital harmony over asserting their preferences. Men and women both indicated that men exercised more freedom to choose preferred, usually unhealthy, foods outside the home. This research highlights the importance of gendered social norms and the marital relationship in understanding the eating behaviors and dietary health of middle-aged African American men.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
List mechanisms and pathways through which marital relationships influence the eating behaviors and dietary health of middle-aged and older African American men. Analyze similarities and differences in African American men’s and women’s perceptions of how wives influence men’s eating behavior. Identify cultural, social, and gender factors that may promote and deter married African American men from healthy eating.

Keyword(s): Men’s Health, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a doctoral student in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on how social determinants of health influence health behaviors and outcomes, with a focus on African American men. I conducted the analyses presented in this paper.
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.