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Title page for ETD etd-03202004-073648

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mosunic, Christopher John
URN etd-03202004-073648
Title Ecological context as a predictor of third grade children’s weight status
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David Schlundt Committee Chair
Bahr Weiss Committee Member
Ken Wallston Committee Member
Steve Hollon Committee Member
Tony Brown Committee Member
  • environment
  • community
  • parent
  • child
  • obesity
  • emotion
  • satiety
  • feeding
Date of Defense 2004-03-18
Availability unrestricted
The prevalence of childhood overweight/obesity in the United States is increasing at alarming rates and these rates vary between ethnicities. It was hypothesized that using an ecological model, childhood predictors leading to overweight/obesity would be best explored within the child’s ecological context rather than their individual ethnicity alone. Ecological context was examined at the individual-child level, interpersonal-parental level, the organizational-school level, the community level, and the policy level. Subjects were sampled from three schools located in the greater metropolitan area of Nashville, Tennessee, thereby allowing a cross sectional examination of 167 ethnically diverse third-grade children, their parents, their school, and their community.

At the individual-child level, emotional overeating positively predicted a girl’s weight status more than it did in boys. Children’s satiety responsiveness was an inverse predictor of weight status in Caucasian children more so than in African American or “Other” children. Children’s dissatisfaction with their body image was a positive predictor of their weight status across ethnicities, i.e. those children with a higher weight status were more dissatisfied with their body image. At the interpersonal-parental level, parental concern over their child’s weight, as well as dissatisfaction with their child’s body, both significantly predicted their child’s weight status. Parental dissatisfaction with their child’s weight was ethnically related. African American parents were more dissatisfied with their child’s body as the child’s weight status increased more than Caucasian or “Other” children. No definitive conclusions could be drawn at the organizational-school level, regarding the relationship between school meals and/or physical activity and child weight status. At the community level, the degree to which communities were dissatisfied with their weight seemed to affect how children responded to their satiety cues and thus affected their weight status. Those children living in communities with higher levels of weight dissatisfaction responded less to their satiety cues and had a significantly greater z-BMI. No independent variables at the policy level were associated with child’s weight status.

This study supports the notion that analyzing the relationship between overweight status and a child’s ecological context allows for accurate conclusions regarding the linkages between ethnic disparities and overweight/obesity status.

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