It has been found that 50% of the South African population is overweight, 9.8% suffers from diabetes and 47.1% is physically inactive. Consequently, unhealthy lifestyles characterised by too little exercise and the consumption of large amounts of fat and refined sugar expose adolescents to an increased risk of health problems. Exposure to either healthy or unhealthy living is provided primarily by parents and, therefore, the family environment is a key role player in the development of a suitable lifestyle. The focus of this study was to understand how the family, as a unit, may create a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and the physical exercise that are beneficial to all the members of the family.
I followed a qualitative method approach and used a multiple case study design to explore the complexity of family functioning. The six dimensions (problem solving, communication, roles, affective responsiveness, affective involvement and behaviour control) of the McMaster Model were employed to conceptualise family behaviour. I relied on criterion sampling to select three families comprising of two-parent households with siblings of whom one child was an adolescent. The requisite data was generated from semi-structured interviews, photovoice messages and lifestyle journals. I used deductive thematic analysis to identify and interpret themes within the data. The findings in the study indicated that effective family functioning, as described by the six dimensions of the McMaster Model, contribute to healthier lifestyle choices. Family meal times, in the form of rituals, provided a special setting for families to deal with family problems, and discuss roles and personal development. The families incorporated values with standards for behaviour and used cell phone applications to monitor and support lifestyle choices.