To test self-regulation concepts in relation to dietary intake and physical activity patterns in adolescence, which we predicted to be influenced by components of a self-control model.
A survey was conducted with a multiethnic sample of 9th grade public school students in a metropolitan area (N = 539). Confirmatory analysis tested the measurement structure of self-control. Structural equation modeling tested the association of self-control constructs with measures of fruit and vegetable intake, saturated-fat intake, physical activity, and sedentary behavior.
Confirmatory analysis of 14 indicators of self-control showed best fit for a two-factor structure, with latent constructs of good self-control (planfulness) and poor self-control (impulsiveness). Good self-control was related to more fruit and vegetable intake, more participation in sports, and less sedentary behavior. Poor self-control was related to more saturated-fat intake and less vigorous exercise. These effects were independent of gender, ethnicity, and parental education, which themselves had relations to diet and exercise measures. Multiple-group modeling indicated that effects of self-control were comparable across gender and ethnicity subgroups.
Self-control concepts are relevant for patterns of dietary intake and physical activity among adolescents. Attention to self-control processes may be warranted for prevention programs to improve health behaviors in childhood and adolescence.