Psychological Reports, 1990, 66, 754.
O Psychological Reports 1990
PRESCHOOL CHILDREN'S ATTITUDES TOWARD HEALTH RISK BEHAVIORS ' JAN JURS Bowling Green State Universio LAUREN MANGILI
Wood County Health Department, Bowling Green, Ohio
UniuersiQ of ToIedo
The development of attitudes toward health and the practice of health-related behaviors begins at an early age. This includes positive atutudes, such as seeing the need for safety belts when riding in a car, as well as negative attitudes such as the preference for junk food over more nutritious choices. Since changing negative health attitudes and behaviors is more o!ifficult than establ~shingpositive attitudes and behaviors, the importance of beginning health promotion programs during the preschool years has been emphasized (2). McCormick (3) stated, "Many of the habits a child develops are already formed by the time he or she enters first grade. In order to best insure the creating of 'healthful habits,' health education during the preschool years is essential." This is especially important when trying to prevent a habit such as smoking, since the earlier one starts smoking, the greater the chance of adverse health effects such as cancer and heart disease (1). Three- to 5-yr.-old children (N = 113) enrolled in a preschool or a day-care center in a s m d , midwest city were interviewed. The children were presented pair-wise comparisons of four health-related behaviors: smoking, not wearing safety belts, eating junk food, and not washing hands. They were asked to name which of the pairs of behaviors was more dangerous to health. Nor wearing safety belts was seen as the most dangerous behavior, with 91.1% or 103 children rating it more dangerous than eating junk food, 68.8% or 78 children rating it more dangerous than no hand washing, and 57.1% or 65 children rating it more dangerous than smoking. Smoking was rated more dangerous than no hand washing by 66.1% or 75 children. Eating junk food was rated more dangerous than no hand washing by 69.6% or 79 children and was rated more dangerous than smoking by 65.2% or 74 children. When behaviors were put into an equal interval scale according to the Thurstone method (4), not washing one's hands was judged to be the least dangerous behavior and was given a scale value of zero. Not wearing a safety belt was judged to be the most dangerous behavior and had a scale value of 3.43. Smoking and eating junk food received scale values of 1.26 and .96, respectively. These preschool children believed that certain health behaviors are much more dangerous to their health than others. They may be more interested in learning positive habits related to behaviors seen as dangerous. Those behaviors whlch ranked lower on the scale should still be included in activities and programs for very young children because these affect health; but, children may need a stronger motivational component to be convinced of their importance. REFERENCES 1. BRINK,S. G., SIMONS.MOR~.ON, D. G., HARVEY, C. M., PARCEL,G . S., & TERNAN,K. M. (1988) Develop~ng comprehensive smoking control programs in schools. Journal of School Heallh, 58, 177-180. 2. BRUHN,J. G., & NADER,P. R. (1982) The school as a setting for health education, health promotion, and health care. Family and ComrntiniQ Health, 4, 57-69. 3. MCCORMICK, P. (1976) Health education for preschoolers. Edtrcational Horizons, 55, 28-30. J. (1968) Psychometric theory. New York: McGraw-Hill. 4. NUNNALLY, Accepted March 26, 1990 'Request reprints from J. Jurs, Ph.D., School of HPER, Eppler Complex North, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403-0248.