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IES Grant

Title: The Role of Diet in Behavior and Academic Outcomes in Middle School Students
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Mrug, Sylvie Awardee: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2018 - 07/31/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,883
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A180074

Co-Principal Investigator: Evans, Retta

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the role of diet in middle school students' behavioral and academic outcomes. Although evidence suggests that poor diet quality contributes to emotional and behavioral problems, research examining the temporal relationships between diet, behavior, and academic outcomes is lacking.

Project Activities: Researchers will recruit 6th grade students and follow them annually in 7th and 8th grade (3 time points). Researchers will collect information on studentsí diet, emotions, behavior, and academic functioning using a combination of global measures and daily reports. They will also evaluate each schoolís nutrition related policies and implementation practices during each annual assessment.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of potential links between diet and behavioral and academic outcomes in adolescents, as well as the potential malleability of school nutrition policies. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed manuscripts, conference presentations, and other dissemination products.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Alabama.

Sample: Approximately 300 students from 15 public middle schools will participate in this study. Students come from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds and about half are African Americans.

Malleable Factors: Researchers will investigate studentsí dietary quality, emotions, behavior, and academic functioning as well as each schoolís nutrition policies and implementation practices.

Research Design and Methods: Students participating in the study will complete a week-long assessment once a year in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade (3 total assessments spaced one year apart). Each assessment will consist of one class session of completing measures and five daily reports of diet, behavior, emotions, and academic functioning. Researchers will collect additional information on these constructs from parents and teachers, observations, and school records at each assessment. Finally, they will evaluate nutrition related policies and practices at each participating school each year through review of documents, interviews with key informants, and objective assessments. The researchers will test bidirectional relationships between studentsí diet, behavior and academic functioning and clarify how these relationships unfold over time.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Researchers will ask students, teachers, and parents to complete global and daily measures of diet and emotional, behavioral and academic functioning. The global measures will include student, parent, and teacher reports; observations and objective assessments by researchers; and school records. Daily measures will include student reports, observations, and school records. At the school level, nutrition related policies and practices will be evaluated through review of documents, interviews with key informants, observations, and objective assessments.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use latent growth curve models, autoregressive cross-lagged models, multilevel models, and mediation models to test the relationships between diet, behavioral and emotional functioning, and academic outcomes over time. They will use descriptive statistics to characterize school-based nutrition policies and practices and their variation between and within school districts.