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Article

Tasty and nasty: affective and cognitive attitudinal ambivalence towards health among adolescents

Iosifyan M., Arina G., Nikolaeva V.

Attitudes are positive and negative evaluations of objects. Cognitive attitudes refer to judgments about objects, while affective attitudes refer to feelings towards objects. Studying cognitive and affective attitudes is important, because they impact health behaviors. However, people’s judgments and feelings about objects are sometimes mixed, positive and negative at the same time. This phenomenon – affective and cognitive attitudinal ambivalence – plays a moderating role in attitude-behavior link. It is already known that adolescents express attitudinal ambivalence towards risky behaviors (alcohol and substance misuse) and that impacts their behaviors. In present study we investigated attitudinal ambivalence towards wider range of health-related objects: risky behaviors, healthy behaviors, family and the self. Because attitudinal ambivalence may change over the course of a lifespan, in the present study it is investigated in developmental perspective. We compared affective and cognitive attitudinal ambivalence towards health-related objects among younger (11–14 y.o.) and older adolescents (15–16 y.o.). The following differences among adolescents were found. Compared to younger adolescents, older adolescents have more contradictory affective attitudes (coexistence of positive and negative feelings towards health-related objects). They hold more ambivalent affective attitudes towards risky behaviors and family in particular. However, no differences were found in cognitive attitudinal ambivalence (coexistence of contradictory judgments about health-related objects) between the two groups of adolescents. Both groups of adolescents have more contradictory feelings towards health-related objects, compared to contradictory judgments about these objects. Practical applications of these findings in preventive programs for healthy lifestyle are discussed.