Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

VandeVusse, Leona

Second Advisor

Belknap, Ruth Ann

Third Advisor

Edwards, Lisa


Problem. Mexican origin (MO) women comprise the largest Hispanic subgroup (nearly two-thirds) of Latinas in the US. This subgroup has high incidences of obesity and associated chronic diseases. Modifiable risk factors for obesity and chronic diseases include unhealthy diets and eating patterns. Efforts to understand eating patterns of Hispanics have focused on primarily first-generation Hispanics. To date, limited research has been conducted to explore underlying factors that contribute to eating patterns of US born MO women living in the US. Method. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory-descriptive study, using a thematic analysis approach, was employed to explore 15 US born MO women’s narrative descriptions about their eating patterns during individual interviews. The participants were second to fourth generation and reported higher educational attainment, middle income socioeconomic brackets, and English proficiency compared to previous groups studied in the available literature reviewed, who primarily were first generation.Results and Conclusions. The philosophical underpinning, Critical Social Theory with the Social Ecological Model as a theoretical framework was employed. Five themes were identified: (a) personal agency, (b) relationships with people about food, (c) cultural and familial influences, (d) environments, and (e) time and money. All themes were comprised of multiple factors that together classified the varied aspects of the women’s eating patterns. The women in this study did not fit common cultural assumptions derived from previous literature about impacts on Hispanic eating patterns. This study contributes to the body of knowledge by providing insights about descriptions of eating patterns from a subgroup, generational, and gender-specific perspective that extended beyond acculturative and homogeneous group viewpoints to a broader structural view. Social determinants of health may need to be explored with wider lenses to include women with better social, educational, and economic conditions who continue to experience high obesity rates, to promote better health outcomes and advocate for enhanced equity. A more comprehensive understanding of this heterogeneous group is crucial. Innovative approaches are needed for teaching, studying, and developing policies that encompass economic, social, and environmental factors that impact eating patterns to address them and associated dietary related health conditions that extend beyond current national categorizations.

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