The purpose of this study is to explore the association between eating patterns, social identity and the well-being of adolescents via a mixed methods study of Chinese teenagers. The specific research questions presented in this study are as follows: What is the relationship between social eating and well-being? How is the relationship between social eating and well-being mediated by social identity?
This study is based on a sequential mixed methods study, including interviews with 16 teenage–parent dyads, and a large-scale survey of over 1,000 teenagers on their eating patterns, conducted with the support of public schools. A model that tests relationships among social eating, social identity and subjective well-being is developed and tested.
The results show that dining with family members leads to improved subjective well-being for teenagers, through a partial mediator of stronger family identity. However, dining with peers is not found to influence subjective well-being.
The privileged position of family meals demonstrated through this study may be an artifact of the location of this study in one Chinese city. Further research is needed related to the connections among social identity, objective well-being and the social patterns of teenagers’ food consumption behavior.
To improve the subjective well-being of teenagers, families, public policy-makers and food marketers should support food consumption patterns that promote family meals.
While many food-related consumer studies focus on the individual, social and environmental influences of food choices of adolescents, few studies address how eating patterns affect overall well-being. These results reinforce the importance of understanding the effect of the social context of teenagers’ eating patterns on health and well-being.
Ann Veeck is grateful for the Summer Research Grant from the Haworth College of Business and a Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award from Western Michigan University. Hongyan Yu wishes to acknowledge support from the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71772183). Hongli Zhang is grateful for support from the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 2017zz023).
Veeck, A., Yu, H., Zhang, H., Zhu, H. and Yu, F.(G). (2018), "Social eating patterns, identity and the subjective well-being of Chinese teenagers", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 52 No. 12, pp. 2356-2377. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-10-2017-0758Download as .RIS
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