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Child, Family, and Neighborhood Predictors of Children’s Body Mass Index: A Longitudinal Study of Moderated Mediation

Hails, Katherine (2021) Child, Family, and Neighborhood Predictors of Children’s Body Mass Index: A Longitudinal Study of Moderated Mediation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Childhood obesity is a widely prevalent public health concern that disproportionately affects children from low-income families (Cameron et al., 2015). The causes of child obesity and socioeconomic disparities in its prevalence are not well understood, but are likely because of co-occurring and interacting risk factors at multiple levels of influence on children (Harrison et al., 2011). In particular, aspects of children’s early neighborhood environment, including food retailers and parks, may affect children’s weight directly by influencing health behaviors (e.g., eating habits, physical activity). A neighborhood’s social attributes (e.g., poverty levels, perceived danger) could also indirectly affect child weight by compromising self-regulation (SR), which could then influence eating behaviors. Additionally, parents may provide a buffering effect for children in the context of high levels of neighborhood risk (Supplee et al., 2007). The aims of the current study were to assess longitudinal relationships between the neighborhood environment in early childhood (the “built” environment and neighborhood social context) and growth in child body mass index (BMI) from age 5 to 10.5, to test child SR as a mediator of associations between neighborhood context and child BMI growth, and to test supportive parenting as a moderator of relationships between neighborhood and child SR and between child SR and child BMI growth. Study data came from the Early Steps Multisite Study, a sample of 731 predominantly low-income families from Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia assessed when children were age 2 to 10.5. Overall, the current study provided little evidence for the proposed model. Neighborhood variables and SR at preschool-age were both unrelated to growth in child BMI over time. Census-based neighborhood social disadvantage was found to interact with supportive parenting in relation to preschool-age SR, such that the relationship between supportive parenting and child SR was stronger in the context of lower levels of neighborhood disadvantage. Variability in neighborhood context and urbanicity across the three sites may have hindered the ability to detect associations. As child obesity is complex and influenced by many factors both proximal and distal, future research should continue to evaluate interactions and mediating mechanisms among variables at multiple levels of children’s ecology.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hails, Katherinekah217@pitt.edukah217
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShaw,
Committee MemberSilk,
Committee MemberVotruba-Drzal,
Committee MemberMair,
Committee MemberLevine,
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 June 2020
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 24 June 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 117
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: poverty, self-regulation, obesity, parenting, child development
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 17:21
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 17:21

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