The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is a widely used model for developing elementary nutrition education programs; however, few instruments are available to assess the impact of such programs on the main constructs of the SCT. The purposes of this study were: 1) to develop and validate a SCT-based survey instrument that focuses on knowledge, behavior, and self-efficacy for fifth grade students; 2) to assess the relationships between knowledge, behavior, and self-efficacy; and 3) to assess knowledge, behavior, and self-efficacy for healthy eating among the fifth grade students.
A 40-item instrument was developed and validated using content validity and tested among 98 fifth grade students for internal consistency reliability. Relationships between knowledge, behavior, and self-efficacy were assessed using Pearson Correlation Coefficients. Differences in behavior and knowledge scores between children with high and low self-efficacy were examined using t-test.
Cronbach’s alphas for self-efficacy (0.70) and behavior (0.71) subscales of the survey were acceptable, although lower for knowledge (0.56). Summary scores for self-efficacy and behaviors were positively correlated (r = 0.40, P = 0.0001); however, summary knowledge scores were not associated with self-efficacy (r = 0.02, P = 0.88) or behavior scores (r = 0.14, P = 0.23). Participants with high self-efficacy also had significantly higher scores on consuming fruits (P = 0.0009) and dairy products (P = 0.009), eating breakfast (P = 0.008), helping plan family meals (P = 0.0006) and total behaviors for healthy-eating (P = 0.001) compared to those with low self-efficacy. In addition, approximately two thirds of the fifth grade students reported that they did not eat any fruits or vegetables or ate them only once on a typical day.
The developed instrument is a reliable and useful tool to assess SCT-based elementary nutrition education programs, particularly for self-efficacy and behavior. Our results also indicated that strategic interventions are necessary to improve dietary behaviors regarding fruit and vegetable consumptions among elementary school students.