Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Other biological topics, Nutrition, Dietetics, Public and environmental health

Publication Details

A thesis submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy, School of Biological and Health Sciences, Technological University Dublin, June 2022.


Aim The aim of this research was to understand the eating behaviour traits and food choice motivations of Irish teens, and to investigate the social, psychological, and attitudinal determinants of these eating behaviour traits and influences on food choice.

Methods Mixed methods were used in this research, using quantitative analysis of data from the National Teens’ Food Survey II (NTFSII), a cross-sectional study of teens aged 13-18 years old (N=428). Data predominantly came from the TFEQ-r18 and VARSEEK tools for eating behaviour traits, and the FCQ tool for food choice motivations, as well as socio-demographics, anthropometrics, behaviour/attitudes and dietary intakes. An independent qualitative study was conducted in N=47 Irish teens, via focus group discussions using vignettes to introduce discussion topics based on information from the NTFSII survey. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results This research identified uncontrolled eating as the predominant eating behaviour trait in Irish teens, however all four eating behaviour traits (restrained, emotional, uncontrolled eating, and variety seeking in food), showed low-mid range values. The top three motivations for food choice were “Sensory Appeal”, “Price & Availability”, and “Health & Natural Content”. Eating behaviour traits and food choice motivations were associated with different dietary intakes. Qualitative findings showed that food choice is multi-factorial in nature, needing a balance of priorities, which change depending on the social setting. Social concerns and food guilt appear to play a strong role in teen food choice.

Conclusion It is important to consider both the context of eating, not only the content of the food when understanding the eating habits of teens. While we should encourage healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, we must be mindful of the needs of teens for physical growth and development, and for social interactions at this stage of life.