Vegetarian Nutrition

VN: Types and Diversity of Vegetarian Diets (2009)

Citation:

Larsson CL, Rönnlund U, Johansson G, Dahlgren L. Veganism as status passage: The process of becoming a vegan among youths in Sweden. Appetite. 2003; 41: 61-68.

PubMed ID: 12880622
 
Study Design:
Descriptive Study
Class:
D - Click here for explanation of classification scheme.
Quality Rating:
Neutral NEUTRAL: See Quality Criteria Checklist below.
Research Purpose:

This study describes the process of becoming a vegan among adolescents.

Inclusion Criteria:
  • Vegan
  • Adolescent
  • Around the area of Umea in northern Sweden.
Exclusion Criteria:

None reported.

Description of Study Protocol:

Recruitment

A total of six vegans were recruited for in-depth interviews. Three were recruited in September, 1997 by contacting one of their teachers. The informants had never met before and were chosen to represent different types of vegans. The three other vegans participating in individual interviews were recruited from a research project, including 30 vegan adolescents who had been recruited by advertisements and visits to schools.

Design

A group interview was conducted with three of the subjects and took place at the school of the informants while the in-depth interviews took place at Umea University. All interviews were tape-recorded and lasted approximately 1.5 to two hours. The interviews addressed the following areas:

  • The process of and reasons for becoming a vegan
  • Changes in lifestyle and attitudes after becoming a vegan
  • Present lifestyle habits and vision of future habits.

Each interview was transcribed word for word. The text from the interviews was read several times and coded.

 

Data Collection Summary:

Timing of Measurements

September 1997, October 1998, April 1999 and May 1999.

Vegans were defined as people eating food from plant origin only. Subjects were included if they had been consuming a vegan diet for at least six months and were planning to continue eating a vegan diet.

Dependent Variables

Motivations for and process of becoming vegetarian.

Independent Variables

Independent variables were not identified ahead of time, but rather identified within the interviews. 

Description of Actual Data Sample:
  • Final N: Six (three female, three male)
  • Age: 16 to 20 years of age
  • Ethnicity: Swedish
  • Location: Ulmea area of Sweden.
Summary of Results:

A lifestyle philosophy, called Straight Edge, was very popular among the youth in the northern area of Sweden in the mid-1990s. This movement originated from the punk movement and emphasized animal liberation, freedom from drugs and vegetarianism. In 1996, 16% of the 15-year-old adolescents in the northern Swedish town of Umea had become vegetarians and 3.3% of those were vegan.

The authors studied a group of vegans within this area to understand the processes by which young omnivores may become vegans.

Veganism as a Status Passage

The change to veganism can be viewed as a kind of status passage. The choice is a sort of turning point where the individual makes concerted choices to define their identity. Cultures often mark status passages with rituals (e.g., marriage, graduation). However, a status passage is more than a single event and involves a number of different processes and progresses through a series of stages.

Larsson and colleagues use in-depth interviews to identify different types of vegans based on their passage from omnivore to veganism as a “life project” as well as detail the different processes involved in this passage.

Types of Vegans

  • Conformed vegans: These vegans socialize mainly with other vegetarians and seek to share the main attitudes and behaviors of the group. At this point, the reference point was the vegetarian group and not the vegetarian ideology. They are vegans primarily through imitation, seeking group acceptance and a place where they can fit in. This is a tentative first phase in the young person’s process to define their identity apart from their family and so their veganism may be a rebellious rejection of traditional family values. Veganism may be chosen in large measure because of what it isn’t rather than for what it is. Often, vegans in this phase will have a shallow knowledge of vegan philosophy.
  • Organized vegans: These vegans have become convinced in their veganism and are more anchored in vegan philosophy. In this sample, their ideas were characterized by animal ethics, equality, solidarity, and non-parliamentary political points of view. At this point, the vegans had developed or were developing their own individual identity. They were also more likely to act based on their beliefs, sometimes taking part in protests against companies like McDonalds. They built bridges with other like-minded vegan groups across Europe. Some organized vegans took part in illegal activities against meat industry and animal farms by freeing animals or destroying property. These were known among vegans as the “Militant Vegans.” Many Organized Vegans sought to distance themselves from the militant group and felt that militancy gave all vegans a bad name.
  • Individualistic vegans: These vegans have become very grounded in the vegan philosophy and feel no need to associate themselves with other vegans. At this stage in the process of change, it is fully the philosophy and not the group that is the point of reference. They disassociated themselves from militant veganism and were more likely to respect the attitudes and beliefs of omnivores. In fact, they were more likely than vegans in the other groups to see themselves as similar to omnivores in all respects except dietary preference. They were not evangelistic, though they were deeply knowledgeable of the philosophy that guided their lives and could discuss vegan issues in great depth. They were more self confident than the other types of vegans and were confident that their decision would be life-long.

The authors compare the different types of vegans in terms of the properties involved in status passage.

Properties Conformed Vegans Organized Vegans Individualistic Vegans
How convinced are they of the desirability of a vegan lifestyle? A bit desirable Desirable Very desirable
Probability of leaving veganism? High Small Very small
How likely are they return to veganism once they have stopped? Possible Small Very small
Reasons for being vegan? They are enticed by others. They are influenced by others. It has become their personal life project.
Possible to communicate their views? Evangelistic, but can communicate about veganism only in  a superficial way Evangelistic and capable to conveying the message in-depth Deeply discuss veganism with seriously interested people
Do they feel the need to be discrete about their veganism? In some contexts Not at all To some extent
Degree of behavioral control? Small Large Very large
How central is veganism in their lives? Limited Large Very large
Duration of veganism? Temporal-short Temporal-long Lifelong

Bottom Line

Veganism is one of the most extreme forms of vegetarianism. However, even among vegans there are differences and this is evidenced in the experiences of adolescent vegans where the transition from omnivore to vegan is a sort of status passage from childhood to adult.

Author Conclusion:

Becoming a vegan can be illustrated as a continuous process stimulated and inhibited by positive and negative reasons and perceived consequences. Our case of young vegans has illustrated a new type of status passage with both specific and general characteristics. Two findings are particularly worthy of notice.

  • The different types of vegans showed different properties. The hypothesis generated is that the Individualistic vegan seems to have the greatest chance to be permanent.
  • To become a vegan is to pass through a status passage with all the characteristics described in the theory by Glaser and Strauss (1971).
Funding Source:
Government: The Swedish Institute
University/Hospital: Faculty of Social Sciences, Umea University
Not-for-profit
1
Foundation associated with industry:
Reviewer Comments:
  • Very small sample, but as the purpose was not to test theory so much as identify principles and processes to develop theory (e.g., identify variables that would be used in quantitative studies), this is the norm
  • Given that the individuals in the study were part of a local movement, it is difficult to know how much of what the authors found generalizes beyond the context.
Quality Criteria Checklist: Primary Research
Relevance Questions
  1. Would implementing the studied intervention or procedure (if found successful) result in improved outcomes for the patients/clients/population group? (Not Applicable for some epidemiological studies) N/A
  1. Would implementing the studied intervention or procedure (if found successful) result in improved outcomes for the patients/clients/population group? (Not Applicable for some epidemiological studies) N/A
  2. Did the authors study an outcome (dependent variable) or topic that the patients/clients/population group would care about? Yes
  2. Did the authors study an outcome (dependent variable) or topic that the patients/clients/population group would care about? Yes
  3. Is the focus of the intervention or procedure (independent variable) or topic of study a common issue of concern to dieteticspractice? Yes
  3. Is the focus of the intervention or procedure (independent variable) or topic of study a common issue of concern to dieteticspractice? Yes
  4. Is the intervention or procedure feasible? (NA for some epidemiological studies) N/A
  4. Is the intervention or procedure feasible? (NA for some epidemiological studies) N/A
 
Validity Questions
  1. Was the research question clearly stated? Yes
1. Was the research question clearly stated? Yes
  1.1. Was (were) the specific intervention(s) or procedure(s) [independent variable(s)] identified? N/A
  1.1. Was (were) the specific intervention(s) or procedure(s) [independent variable(s)] identified? N/A
  1.2. Was (were) the outcome(s) [dependent variable(s)] clearly indicated? Yes
  1.2. Was (were) the outcome(s) [dependent variable(s)] clearly indicated? Yes
  1.3. Were the target population and setting specified? Yes
  1.3. Were the target population and setting specified? Yes
  2. Was the selection of study subjects/patients free from bias? No
2. Was the selection of study subjects/patients free from bias? No
  2.1. Were inclusion/exclusion criteria specified (e.g., risk, point in disease progression, diagnostic or prognosis criteria), and with sufficient detail and without omitting criteria critical to the study? Yes
  2.1. Were inclusion/exclusion criteria specified (e.g., risk, point in disease progression, diagnostic or prognosis criteria), and with sufficient detail and without omitting criteria critical to the study? Yes
  2.2. Were criteria applied equally to all study groups? N/A
  2.2. Were criteria applied equally to all study groups? N/A
  2.3. Were health, demographics, and other characteristics of subjects described? No
  2.3. Were health, demographics, and other characteristics of subjects described? No
  2.4. Were the subjects/patients a representative sample of the relevant population? No
  2.4. Were the subjects/patients a representative sample of the relevant population? No
  3. Were study groups comparable? N/A
3. Were study groups comparable? N/A
  3.1. Was the method of assigning subjects/patients to groups described and unbiased? (Method of randomization identified if RCT) N/A
  3.1. Was the method of assigning subjects/patients to groups described and unbiased? (Method of randomization identified if RCT) N/A
  3.2. Were distribution of disease status, prognostic factors, and other factors (e.g., demographics) similar across study groups at baseline? N/A
  3.2. Were distribution of disease status, prognostic factors, and other factors (e.g., demographics) similar across study groups at baseline? N/A
  3.3. Were concurrent controls or comparisons used? (Concurrent preferred over historical control or comparison groups.) N/A
  3.3. Were concurrent controls or comparisons used? (Concurrent preferred over historical control or comparison groups.) N/A
  3.4. If cohort study or cross-sectional study, were groups comparable on important confounding factors and/or were preexisting differences accounted for by using appropriate adjustments in statistical analysis? N/A
  3.4. If cohort study or cross-sectional study, were groups comparable on important confounding factors and/or were preexisting differences accounted for by using appropriate adjustments in statistical analysis? N/A
  3.5. If case control study, were potential confounding factors comparable for cases and controls? (If case series or trial with subjects serving as own control, this criterion is not applicable.) N/A
  3.5. If case control study, were potential confounding factors comparable for cases and controls? (If case series or trial with subjects serving as own control, this criterion is not applicable.) N/A
  3.6. If diagnostic test, was there an independent blind comparison with an appropriate reference standard (e.g., "gold standard")? N/A
  3.6. If diagnostic test, was there an independent blind comparison with an appropriate reference standard (e.g., "gold standard")? N/A
  4. Was method of handling withdrawals described? N/A
4. Was method of handling withdrawals described? N/A
  4.1. Were follow-up methods described and the same for all groups? N/A
  4.1. Were follow-up methods described and the same for all groups? N/A
  4.2. Was the number, characteristics of withdrawals (i.e., dropouts, lost to follow up, attrition rate) and/or response rate (cross-sectional studies) described for each group? (Follow up goal for a strong study is 80%.) N/A
  4.2. Was the number, characteristics of withdrawals (i.e., dropouts, lost to follow up, attrition rate) and/or response rate (cross-sectional studies) described for each group? (Follow up goal for a strong study is 80%.) N/A
  4.3. Were all enrolled subjects/patients (in the original sample) accounted for? N/A
  4.3. Were all enrolled subjects/patients (in the original sample) accounted for? N/A
  4.4. Were reasons for withdrawals similar across groups? N/A
  4.4. Were reasons for withdrawals similar across groups? N/A
  4.5. If diagnostic test, was decision to perform reference test not dependent on results of test under study? N/A
  4.5. If diagnostic test, was decision to perform reference test not dependent on results of test under study? N/A
  5. Was blinding used to prevent introduction of bias? N/A
5. Was blinding used to prevent introduction of bias? N/A
  5.1. In intervention study, were subjects, clinicians/practitioners, and investigators blinded to treatment group, as appropriate? N/A
  5.1. In intervention study, were subjects, clinicians/practitioners, and investigators blinded to treatment group, as appropriate? N/A
  5.2. Were data collectors blinded for outcomes assessment? (If outcome is measured using an objective test, such as a lab value, this criterion is assumed to be met.) N/A
  5.2. Were data collectors blinded for outcomes assessment? (If outcome is measured using an objective test, such as a lab value, this criterion is assumed to be met.) N/A
  5.3. In cohort study or cross-sectional study, were measurements of outcomes and risk factors blinded? N/A
  5.3. In cohort study or cross-sectional study, were measurements of outcomes and risk factors blinded? N/A
  5.4. In case control study, was case definition explicit and case ascertainment not influenced by exposure status? N/A
  5.4. In case control study, was case definition explicit and case ascertainment not influenced by exposure status? N/A
  5.5. In diagnostic study, were test results blinded to patient history and other test results? N/A
  5.5. In diagnostic study, were test results blinded to patient history and other test results? N/A
  6. Were intervention/therapeutic regimens/exposure factor or procedure and any comparison(s) described in detail? Were interveningfactors described? Yes
6. Were intervention/therapeutic regimens/exposure factor or procedure and any comparison(s) described in detail? Were interveningfactors described? Yes
  6.1. In RCT or other intervention trial, were protocols described for all regimens studied? N/A
  6.1. In RCT or other intervention trial, were protocols described for all regimens studied? N/A
  6.2. In observational study, were interventions, study settings, and clinicians/provider described? Yes
  6.2. In observational study, were interventions, study settings, and clinicians/provider described? Yes
  6.3. Was the intensity and duration of the intervention or exposure factor sufficient to produce a meaningful effect? Yes
  6.3. Was the intensity and duration of the intervention or exposure factor sufficient to produce a meaningful effect? Yes
  6.4. Was the amount of exposure and, if relevant, subject/patient compliance measured? Yes
  6.4. Was the amount of exposure and, if relevant, subject/patient compliance measured? Yes
  6.5. Were co-interventions (e.g., ancillary treatments, other therapies) described? N/A
  6.5. Were co-interventions (e.g., ancillary treatments, other therapies) described? N/A
  6.6. Were extra or unplanned treatments described? N/A
  6.6. Were extra or unplanned treatments described? N/A
  6.7. Was the information for 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 assessed the same way for all groups? N/A
  6.7. Was the information for 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 assessed the same way for all groups? N/A
  6.8. In diagnostic study, were details of test administration and replication sufficient? N/A
  6.8. In diagnostic study, were details of test administration and replication sufficient? N/A
  7. Were outcomes clearly defined and the measurements valid and reliable? Yes
7. Were outcomes clearly defined and the measurements valid and reliable? Yes
  7.1. Were primary and secondary endpoints described and relevant to the question? N/A
  7.1. Were primary and secondary endpoints described and relevant to the question? N/A
  7.2. Were nutrition measures appropriate to question and outcomes of concern? Yes
  7.2. Were nutrition measures appropriate to question and outcomes of concern? Yes
  7.3. Was the period of follow-up long enough for important outcome(s) to occur? N/A
  7.3. Was the period of follow-up long enough for important outcome(s) to occur? N/A
  7.4. Were the observations and measurements based on standard, valid, and reliable data collection instruments/tests/procedures? Yes
  7.4. Were the observations and measurements based on standard, valid, and reliable data collection instruments/tests/procedures? Yes
  7.5. Was the measurement of effect at an appropriate level of precision? N/A
  7.5. Was the measurement of effect at an appropriate level of precision? N/A
  7.6. Were other factors accounted for (measured) that could affect outcomes? N/A
  7.6. Were other factors accounted for (measured) that could affect outcomes? N/A
  7.7. Were the measurements conducted consistently across groups? N/A
  7.7. Were the measurements conducted consistently across groups? N/A
  8. Was the statistical analysis appropriate for the study design and type of outcome indicators? N/A
8. Was the statistical analysis appropriate for the study design and type of outcome indicators? N/A
  8.1. Were statistical analyses adequately described and the results reported appropriately? N/A
  8.1. Were statistical analyses adequately described and the results reported appropriately? N/A
  8.2. Were correct statistical tests used and assumptions of test not violated? N/A
  8.2. Were correct statistical tests used and assumptions of test not violated? N/A
  8.3. Were statistics reported with levels of significance and/or confidence intervals? N/A
  8.3. Were statistics reported with levels of significance and/or confidence intervals? N/A
  8.4. Was "intent to treat" analysis of outcomes done (and as appropriate, was there an analysis of outcomes for those maximally exposed or a dose-response analysis)? N/A
  8.4. Was "intent to treat" analysis of outcomes done (and as appropriate, was there an analysis of outcomes for those maximally exposed or a dose-response analysis)? N/A
  8.5. Were adequate adjustments made for effects of confounding factors that might have affected the outcomes (e.g., multivariate analyses)? N/A
  8.5. Were adequate adjustments made for effects of confounding factors that might have affected the outcomes (e.g., multivariate analyses)? N/A
  8.6. Was clinical significance as well as statistical significance reported? N/A
  8.6. Was clinical significance as well as statistical significance reported? N/A
  8.7. If negative findings, was a power calculation reported to address type 2 error? N/A
  8.7. If negative findings, was a power calculation reported to address type 2 error? N/A
  9. Are conclusions supported by results with biases and limitations taken into consideration? Yes
9. Are conclusions supported by results with biases and limitations taken into consideration? Yes
  9.1. Is there a discussion of findings? Yes
  9.1. Is there a discussion of findings? Yes
  9.2. Are biases and study limitations identified and discussed? No
  9.2. Are biases and study limitations identified and discussed? No
  10. Is bias due to study's funding or sponsorship unlikely? Yes
10. Is bias due to study's funding or sponsorship unlikely? Yes
  10.1. Were sources of funding and investigators' affiliations described? Yes
  10.1. Were sources of funding and investigators' affiliations described? Yes
  10.2. Was the study free from apparent conflict of interest? Yes
  10.2. Was the study free from apparent conflict of interest? Yes