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We assessed intergenerational differences in food, physical activity, and body size perceptions among refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa living in Victoria, Australia. We used a qualitative design and obtained data from 48 participants (18 individual interviews; 3 semistructured focus groups). Three major themes emerged: (a) food and physical activity, (b) preference of body size and social expectations, and (c) perceived consequences of various body sizes. For parents, large body size was perceived to equate with being beautiful and wealthy; slimness was associated with chronic illness and poverty. Parents adopted strategies that promoted weight gain in children. These included tailored food practices and restricting children’s involvement in physical activity. For young people, slimness was the ideal body size endorsed by their peers, and they adopted strategies to resist parental pressure to gain weight. Obesity-prevention programs in this subpopulation need to adopt a multigenerational approach.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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