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Intergenerational differences in acculturation experiences, food beliefs and perceived health risks among refugees from the Horn of Africa in Melbourne, Australia.

Wilson A, Renzaho A

  • Journal Public health nutrition

  • Published 14 Jan 2014

  • Volume 18

  • ISSUE 1

  • Pagination 176-88

  • DOI 10.1017/S1368980013003467


To investigate the differences in acculturation experiences between parent and adolescent refugees from the Horn of Africa in Melbourne, Australia and to explore food beliefs and perceived health risks from an intergenerational perspective.

Qualitative cross-sectional study involving a combination of semi-structured one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions.

North-West suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese refugees.

Using a purposeful sampling technique, twelve semi-structured face-to-face interviews (nine adults and three adolescents) and four in-depth focus groups (two with adolescents each containing six participants and two with adults one containing six participants and the other ten participants) were carried out. Thus overall data were obtained on fifteen adolescents and twenty-five parents. Qualitative analysis identified differences between parents and adolescents in relation to lifestyle, diet and physical activity. Views regarding health consequences of their changed diets also differed. Parental feeding practices encompassed a variety of methods and were enforced in an attempt by parents to control their children's dietary behaviours and prevent their drift away from traditional eating habits.

These findings call for more research to contextualise dietary acculturation among refugee youth and the impact of migration on parenting styles and feeding practices in communities from the Horn of Africa. Preventive health programmes with Horn of Africa refugees need to acknowledge the effect of acculturation on diet and physical activity levels and a socio-cultural framework needs to be developed with respect to the importance and influence of the family environment.