The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the development of health beliefs and behaviors in Mexican American children and to investigate the parenting techniques that are associated with the internationalization of preventive health beliefs and norms. A total of 160 Mexican American families will serve as subjects in two cohort groups. Each cohort will consist of a total of 80 children, with 10 boys and 10 girls at each of the four ages from 4 to 7 years. Each family will be observed and interviewed yearly for four years, providing 4 years of longitudinal data in each age group (4 to 7, 5 to 8, 6 to 9, and 7 to 10) and cross-sectional data for the ages from 4 to 10. Families will be observed interacting in the home from dinner until the child is put to bed. Children will be assessed for their understanding and attitudes towards three health behavior categories relevant to preschool and school-aged children: diet and eating habits, accident prevention, and personal hygiene. Mothers and fathers will be interviewed regarding the specific health behaviors and prosocial behaviors that they are currently trying to encourage or discourage, and the techniques that they use in accomplishing these socialization goals. Culturally-based health beliefs, acculturation, and demographic characteristics will also be measured. It is predicted that children will develop more internalized health norms with age, as demonstrated by a greater understanding of the link between behavior and health, by an increase in health behaviors in the absence of parental demands, and by increased references to internal versus external reasons for performing health behaviors. Internalization is expected to be most likely to occur in children whose parents hold internal health locus of control beliefs, and whose childbearing techniques include: providing children with reasons for preventive health behavior, giving children opportunities to practice the behavior, and using the least salient external control techniques sufficient to promote compliance with the behavior.
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