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Employed parents' work and family conditions provide behavioral contexts for their food choices. Relationships between employed parents' food-choice coping strategies, behavioral contexts, and dietary quality were evaluated. Data on work and family conditions, sociodemographic characteristics, eating behavior, and dietary intake from two 24-hour dietary recalls were collected in a random sample cross-sectional pilot telephone survey in the fall of 2006. Black, white, and Latino employed mothers (n=25) and fathers (n=25) were recruited from a low/moderate income urban area in upstate New York. Hierarchical cluster analysis (Ward's method) identified three clusters of parents differing in use of food-choice coping strategies (ie, Individualized Eating, Missing Meals, and Home Cooking). Cluster sociodemographic, work, and family characteristics were compared using χ2 and Fisher's exact tests. Cluster differences in dietary quality (Healthy Eating Index 2005) were analyzed using analysis of variance. Clusters differed significantly (P≤0.05) on food-choice coping strategies, dietary quality, and behavioral contexts (ie, work schedule, marital status, partner's employment, and number of children). Individualized Eating and Missing Meals clusters were characterized by nonstandard work hours, grabbing quick food instead of a meal, using convenience entrées at home, and missing meals or individualized eating. The Home Cooking cluster included considerably more married fathers with nonemployed spouses and more home-cooked family meals. Food-choice coping strategies affecting dietary quality reflect parents' work and family conditions. Nutritional guidance and family policy needs to consider these important behavioral contexts for family nutrition health.

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