A sociological evaluation of childhood obesity
Kranjac, Ashley Wendell
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The prevalence and severity of childhood obesity is a major public health concern globally and in the United States. Complex individual and environmental factors including genetic determinants, psychosocial characteristics, and socioeconomic conditions influence childhood obesity risk. I investigated the impact of psychological resources, the obesogenic school environment, and economic constraints on childhood obesity risk to further elucidate the nature of obesity. With this dissertation, I supplement the existing literature by incorporating distinct but interrelated thematic, methodological and quantitative approaches. In the first chapter, I found that self-efficacy acts as a moderator of lowered math achievement in overweight, but not obese, children. In the second chapter, I made use of aggregated school-level panel data to show that changes in children's body weight trajectories differ among schools and over time due to the normative body mass index environment of schools. In the third chapter, I show that obesity does not mediate the pathway of poverty to lowered academic achievement. Together, my findings add to the current knowledge of structural and individual causes and consequences of childhood obesity, and, thus, may potentially assist in the development and implementation of more effective social policies targeting childhood obesity and weight-related comorbidities.