An examination of the influence of African-American extended family relationships on child weight status

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sarah Burch (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jigna Dharod

Abstract: In the U.S., African American children suffer from higher rates of obesity than their white peers. African American families are often multi-generational, with extended family members, especially women, caring for child relatives. Yet little is currently known about the influence of these female extended family members (EFMs) on African American children’s dietary and physical activity behaviors. The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between the amount of time an African American child spent with an EFM, the frequency of child physical activity and eating around the EFM, and family members’ weight status. Data were collected and analyzed as part of a larger study examining relationships in African American families (n=47). Participating families consisted of the mother, her child aged 8-12 years, and an EFM. Participants were recruited from community organizations in Guilford County, North Carolina. Family Systems Theory guided the research in accordance with current literature which suggests that family-based lifestyle interventions achieve better outcomes than education or information only interventions. Eighty-eight percent of non-pregnant mothers (n=44) and 87% of non-pregnant EFMs (n=45) were classified as overweight or obese as defined by Body Mass Index (BMI) compared to 47% of the children in the study as defined by Body Mass Index For Age (BMI-For-Age). EFMs comprised 10 grandmothers, two great grandmothers, one great aunt, 19 aunts, and 15 cousins. No significant association was found between time spent with EFMs and frequency of child eating and physical activity behaviors. Children were less active around grandmothers and great grandmothers compared to aunts and cousins (p<0.05). Children were less active and ate less frequently around relatives 45 years and older (p<0.01). No significant relationship was found between child weight status and frequency of physical activity around EFMs. Children with higher weight status were more likely to be related to grandmothers, great grandmothers and great aunts than to aunts and cousins (r=-0.289, p<0.05); to spend 4 days or more with EFMs (r=0.311, p<0.05); and to have an EFM who was overweight or obese herself (r=0.314, p<0.05). EFM relationship type and time spent with the EFM were significantly predictive of child BMI status. EFM BMI was also predictive. EFM age and frequency of physical activity around the EFM were not (p<0.05). These findings call for future research to help understand how EFMs influence the dietary and physical activity behaviors of children in their care.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
African American, Extended Family Relationship, Nutrition
African American extended families $x Health and hygiene
Overweight children $x Family relationships
Obesity in children $x Social aspects
Obesity in children $x Prevention
Health $x Social aspects
Social medicine

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