Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Carol Bryant, Ph.D.

Keywords

Childhood obesity, Restrictive feeding practices, Weight concerns, Maternal concerns, Maternal comments about weight

Abstract

The health and well-being of U.S. children is challenged by the immense crisis of obesity. The obesity proneness model, first described by Costanzo and Woody (1985), describes one mechanism by which parents influence obesity development. This model suggests that parents become concerned about their children's weight if their children show signs of becoming overweight and parents value weight highly. Parents communicate their concerns to their children and restrict their children's eating. Children internalize parents' concerns and become unable to regulate their eating. Hence, parents socialize children to be concerned about their weight but do not equip them to regulate eating, thus contributing to the development of obesity. Previous research has examined model components, primarily from parents' perspectives.

This study examined the model from the adolescents' perspectives and employed structural equation modeling to test and refine a modified model and determine the best predictors of obesity among adolescents. The study was non-experimental in design, employing a secondary analysis of cross-sectional data collected as part of a modified Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered in Sarasota County, Florida, high schools during fall 2006. Models were tested and modified in a training sample, Sample A (N = 784); final models were cross-validated in a hold-out sample, Sample B (N = 749). Findings suggested that a refined model was plausible (?²/df = 331.97/64, TLI = 0.94, RMSEA = 0.07; ?²/df = 226/64, TLI = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.06, Samples A and B, respectively).

Many paths were statistically significant; e.g., students who perceived mothers to be concerned about their weight were likely to think mothers perceived them as heavier, valued weight highly, had restrictive feeding practices, and made comments about their weight. Students with greater internalized concern about weight were likely to think mothers made comments about their weight and were heavier. Girls were more likely than boys to think mothers were concerned about their weight. Internalized concern about weight, but not inability to self-regulate eating, was predictive of weight status. Interventions addressing some of the model's constructs may provide a partial solution to problems of weight and inability to self-regulate eating behaviors.

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