Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jean E. Davis


Purpose: African American adolescents experience higher rates of obesity and have an increased risk of obesity related diseases than Caucasian American adolescents. Despite culturally sensitive obesity preventive interventions, obesity rates are increasing within the African American adolescent population. Current obesity interventions claim to be culturally sensitive, but do not address how ethnic identity and parental influences on body image and body change may affect the efficacy of the interventions. The purpose of this study was to examine the sociocultural factors related to weight behaviors and cognitions in African American adolescents. Differences based on socioeconomic status (SES), gender, and residential status provided the context for the analysis.

Theoretical Framework: The social ecological approach was used to guide the study in the exploration of parental influences on body image and body change as the variables related to the sociocultural norms in the weight behaviors and cognitions of social physique anxiety, eating behaviors, and physical activity in African American adolescents.

Methodology: A descriptive correlational design was utilized. The sample (n = 145) included African American adolescents, ages 15 to 17 from community clinics, youth organizations, churches, and social networks in metropolitan and inner city Detroit. Data were collected utilizing survey methods and analyzed using descriptive statistics, Pearson Product Moment Correlations, and Independent Sample t tests.

Findings: Adolescents in the study reported consuming diets high in fat and calories, low physical activity levels, and moderate amounts of social physique anxiety. Perceived parental socialization, specifically maternal socialization, was significantly related to the adolescents' eating behaviors, physical activity, and social physique anxiety, while paternal socialization was only significantly related to their physical activity and social physique anxiety. The adolescents' ethnic identity was not significantly related to their eating behaviors, physical activity, or social physique anxiety. There were significant group differences in the major study variables and weight measurement based on gender, socioeconomic status, and residential status.

Conclusions: The initial findings from the study will assist in better understanding the factors related to behaviors and cognitions that are related to the obesity epidemic that affects the African American adolescents in disparate proportions. Further examination of the variables is essential in order to serve as a basis for developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant targeted interventions with this population. Nurses and health care providers who work with youth can utilize the initial findings from this study to be the advocates of healthy lifestyles while reducing the obesity disparity within the African American adolescent population.

Included in

Nursing Commons