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Obesity Risk Factors Among Preschool California Children


The increasing pervasiveness of pediatric obesity is cause for concern, because of its known association with life-long obesity and associated health problems. Nonetheless, there is little information about the important predictors of preschool obesity, which is a critical period for the development of emotional and behavioral self-regulation. This descriptive, cross-sectional analysis of 1510 preschoolers aged three to five years, utilized data from the 2009 Child version of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), in order to examine preschool obesity prevalence in this population and its associations with gender, ethnicity, and poverty level, as well as measures of negative emotion, developmental risk, physical activity, sedentary activity, diet, park factors, and maternal English ability. This research produced significant findings: well over a third of the preschoolers in the study were classified as obese; obesity was significantly associated with Hispanic ethnicity, poverty, and recent fast food intake; negative emotion was associated with normal, rather than overweight status; and inadequate physical activity was associated with Hispanic ethnicity and poor maternal English proficiency, a proxy for decreased maternal acculturation. The identification of maternal English ability as a significant, independent risk factor for physical activity is an important step in further understanding of demographic variables that may influence obesity rates in minority children. Study findings also present beginning evidence that negative mood may be associated with normal weight in young children, which is contrary to previous research that suggests correlations between depression and overweight. Further research is needed to investigate negative emotion in the context of pediatric weight status, and to inquire further into the interplay among preschool obesity, limited English proficiency, Hispanic ethnicity, poverty, and physical activity.

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