Family Environmental Characteristics Associated with Obesity in African American High School Girls

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The University of Maryland McNair Scholars Undergraduate Research Journal, 1, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 208-220.



Adolescent obesity is prevalent in America. African American girls are at a disproportion risk for developing obesity. Family environment has been shown to be associated with obesity in African American adolescent girls. Examining the family environmental factors further reveals there association with obesity. This study is examining key environmental factors associated with obesity in that population. This study uses secondary analysis of the baseline data from Project Heart (PH), a physical activity intervention trial at a high school with the goal of increasing physical activity levels. Two hundred twenty- one (221) girls participated. Most of them were African American (83%) and age 13-15 years. They completed questionnaires covering aspects of their family environment, and the data analysis showed the factors association with girl’s obese status. Chi squared test and T-test were used to show significant differences between the two groups of obese and non obese girls in relation to their parents obesity status. Twenty-nine percent of the girls were obese, BMI’s at or over the 95 percentile specific for age and sex. 71% of the girls were not obese. 35% of those obese girls had > 1 parent who is obese compared to 15% of non obese girls having > 1 parent obese. The rest of the data analysis is in progress (chart and graphs in development). The data represented girl’s perception in terms of reporting parent obese status, making them inaccurate. The measures used within the data set analysis are family intimacy, family support and family physical activity. The family intimacy scale is very important environmental characteristic when predicting levels of physical activity/non activity in the high school girls and should be continue to be used in other research. There have not been many studies with predominately African American girls. In the future, more in-depth research on the different type of environments needs to be conducted.