Neigborhood disadvantage, parenting, and obesity in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood among adolescents of color


Irby, Megan B. (2016). Neigborhood disadvantage, parenting, and obesity in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood among adolescents of color.


Within the last four decades in the United States pediatric obesity prevalence has nearly quadrupled (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014), tracking with fidelity into adulthood (Dietz & Robinson, 2005). At the subpopulation level, there is clear evidence to support that overall pediatric obesity prevalence is unequally distributed across races and socioeconomic (SES) groups (Bethell, Simpson, Stumbo, Carle, & Gombojav, 2010; Wen et al., 2012), and the gap that has historically separated the health of individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and from low and high social classes has widened both in the United States and across the globe (Adler & Rehkopf, 2008). Our understanding of adolescent obesity and the different factors that promote obesogenic behaviors within and across groups is limited by gaps in the existing literature (Patrick, Hennessy, McSpadden, & Oh, 2013). To address these issues more comprehensively, it is imperative that researchers focus on: (a) integrating parenting research within the context of childhood obesity, (b) developing a better understanding of the social and environmental contexts that shape parenting and adolescent weight-related behaviors in various populations, and (c) developing a greater understanding of the factors that mediate or moderate the relationship between parenting and adolescents’ obesogenic behaviors. With data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a large, nationally representative sample of adolescents, this dissertation focuses on adolescents of color and aims to address obesity in the context of adversity and disadvantage from a non-deficit perspective. This study investigates the varying effect of individual-level factors (adolescent characteristics and perceptions of parenting), and neighborhood-level factors on adolescent weight outcomes in adolescence and in young adulthood, and explores the potential influences of supportive parenting behaviors and neighborhood disadvantage on adolescent weight outcomes. Results indicate that higher levels of neighborhood disadvantage at earlier points in adolescence are associated with higher BMI percentile scores in cross-sectional analyses, and are predictive of higher BMI percentile scores in later adolescence or early adulthood and of increases in BMI percentile scores over time. This is consistent with prior studies suggesting that neighborhood contextual factors during adolescence play a role in shaping outcomes in later adolescence and young adulthood, with differential effects on outcomes depending on whether neighborhood contexts are advantaged or disadvantaged as indicated by poverty, neighborhood unemployment, and housing quality (Kwon & Wickrama, 2014). This dissertation ultimately provides a critique of adolescent weight status, particularly overweight and obesity, as legitimate public health issues whose higher prevalence among adolescents of color is a function of institutionalized racism.



Social sciences Health and environmental sciences Adolescence Neighborhoods Obesity Parenting Racism Social research Public health Individual & family studies 0628:Individual & family studies 0573:Public health 0344:Social research


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Reference Type



Irby, Megan B.

Series Author(s)

Buehler, Cheryl A.

Year Published


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The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

City of Publication

Ann Arbor





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