The Relationship Between Psychosocial Factors And Weight Status Among African American Adolescents

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Public Health and Policy


Doctor of Public Health

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Stigma, self-esteem and self-efficacy, under-investigated psychosocial factors, may be used to combat the overweight and obesity epidemic among African American adolescents (AA). Literature that examines psychosocial factors and weight status typically focuses on girls. Omitting examinations of these factors in males thwarts overall understanding of the relationship between psychosocial factors and weight status. The aims of the research are to determine the relationship between psychosocial factors and weight status among AA adolescents and identify gender differences. A convenience sample of 190 AA (average age 16 years) high school juniors was used for this investigation. Students were asked to complete surveys on stigma (teasing), self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Covariate, lifestyle factors of smoking and team sports participation were also considered. Weight status was represented by BMI for age, using CDC guidelines, computed from self-reported heights and weights. Cross-tabulations and multiple logistic regression analyses evaluated unadjusted and adjusted relationships between these variables and weight status. There was a 45% response rate. The average BMI for age placed the study sample in the 68th percentile. Over half of the sample participated in team sports and only 4% were smokers. Self esteem and self efficacy were not found to be significantly associated with weight status. Stigma (teasing) and weight status were significantly correlated (p<.05). After adjusting for gender and lifestyle factors, the odds of being above normal weight were 4 times greater for those reporting high levels of teasing (O.R. = 3.98; 95%CI=1.6- 9.9, p=0.003). Teasing and reported weight status among AA females was significantly associated (OR=7.11, CI =2.08, 24.30). Future longitudinal and intervention studies are needed to further clarify and explicate the potential influence that psychosocial factors may have on curbing the obesity epidemic among AA adolescents.