OBJECTIVE - Women play a critical role in men's dietary health, but how men think about the nature and mechanisms of their wives' influence on their eating behavior is not well understood. This study examined how African American men described the roles their wives played in shaping their eating behavior.
METHODS - Thematic content analysis was used to analyze data from nine exploratory focus groups conducted with a convenience sample of 83 African American men who were middle aged or older and lived in southeast Michigan.
RESULTS - Men perceived having more freedom to choose what they ate while eating out, even when accompanied by their wives, compared with at home. The men indicated their wives influenced what they ate at home more than their own preferences. They described traditional gendered food roles at home and were satisfied that their wives played a dominant role in household food preparation and decision making. Men had mixed feelings about wives' efforts to prepare healthier meals. While they appreciated that their wives cared about their health, the men felt they were rarely consulted on how meals could be healthier and often disliked the healthy changes their wives made. The men prioritized keeping their wives happy, preserving spousal division of roles, and maintaining marital harmony over participating in food decision making or expressing their personal food preferences.
CONCLUSIONS - Interventions to improve married African American men's eating behaviors need to explicitly consider that men may prioritize marital harmony and the preservation of spousal food roles over their tastes, preferences, and desired food decision making roles.
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