Race, ethnicity and the social context of disadvantage and its links to obesity and physical activity in adolescence and the transition to adulthood Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Lee, Hedwig
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • My dissertation investigates the relationship between social disadvantage and obesity physical activity outcomes using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Using a dynamic longitudinal model, I examine the impact of social disadvantage in adolescence on patterns of obesity and physical activity (PA) across the transition to young adulthood, a period when adult lifestyle behaviors are solidified and major racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities become apparent. The highest rates of obesity occur among the most disadvantaged population groups, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with the highest poverty rates and the least education. I draw on a life course framework and the ecological model of human development to conceptualize the mechanisms of social disadvantage that link race/ethnicity and low SES to obesity and low levels of PA. I use data from three waves of Add Health to track obesity and PA trajectories from adolescence (WII: ages 13-19 y.) into adulthood (WIII: ages 19-26 y.) and to measure factors at the individual, family, peer, school and neighborhood levels in adolescence (WI and WII) that shape these trajectories. My three specific aims investigate the role of social disadvantage in the social contexts of young people's lives and determine if they serve as mechanisms through which race/ethnic and SES disparities operate. These mechanisms include: (1) cumulative risk (CR) indices, which refers to the number of risk factors that exists in a child's social environment with the assumption that disadvantage is related to the accumulation of risk factors rather than a singular exposure; (2) Multilevel socioeconomic disadvantage--disadvantage present in the peer, school, and neighborhood context (e.g., proportion of peers/school/neighborhood with parents who have no high school diploma) and (3) parenting styles and practices. This dissertation contributes to social science research on racial and ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities by utilizing dynamic, interconnected and multilevel conceptualizations of the environment to study obesity and physical activity outcomes. In addition, by identifying alterable mechanisms operating in the social environments of disadvantaged populations that produce obesity and PA disparities, this research can inform policies and interventions aimed at eliminating them.
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  • In Copyright
  • Harris, Kathleen Mullan
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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