Tracking from Childhood and Adolescence into Adult Life

Tracking can be defined as the stability of health behavior over time or the 'preservation of relative position in rank of behavior over time' (Wardle, 1995) occurring from childhood to adulthood. Longitudinal studies have shown that smoking tracks strongly in adolescence and up until the late twenties (Twisk et al, 1997); findings from other studies indicate that alcohol use, dietary habits and preferences, and physical activity (Herman et al, 2008; Ovesen, 2006) do not track as strongly from adolescence into young adult life. During adolescence, individuals form identity, shaping their values, beliefs, and morals (Bissonnette and Contento, 2001). These processes, together with their past experiences in relation to the different health behaviors and their individualized characteristics such as gender and socioeconomic position, contribute to their choice of behaviors. It is therefore not surprising that behaviors only track moderately from adolescence to young adulthood. Much research remains, however, to characterize tracking of health behaviors further over adult life.

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