Changes in family variables among normal and overweight preschoolers

Philisie Starling Washington, Elizabeth Reifsnider, Sheryl L. Bishop, Melissa Domingeaux Ethington, Rawslyn E. Ruffin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Scopus citations


    Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine differences in the weight and height of normal and overweight children in variables relating to the individual, homefamily and community across a six month time period. Research QuestionsHypotheses: What are the ecological factors that influence the body mass index (BMI) of preschool children Significance: The rate of overweight preschool children aged 2 to 5 years has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Low socioeconomic and ethnic minority groups have higher rates. Research shows a strong correlation between a child's size (height, weight, and BMI) and the ecological factors present in the family's environment. Methods: This study is a secondary data analysis from a cross sectional study of 200 Mexican American children ages 23 years old receiving WIC services. The sample consisted of 100 children with a BMI > 95 for age and 100 children with a BMI of <85 for age. Variables and measurements included: hostchild (BMI percentile, diet, TV watching hours); agentfood (feeding assistance); microsystemparent (parental BMI, acculturation level, employment, physical activities); microsystemhome (stimulation, TV hours); and microsystemmother-child relationship (NCAST Teaching Scale).This study is limited to populations with similar characteristics. Results: Both overweight and normal weight children showed decreases in BMI, but maintained their between group differences even while slimming down (p .000). Overweight children consumed significantly more fruit, bread and other carbohydrates, and total calories, than did normal weight children. Both groups of children increased significantly in their consumption of water, fruit juice and juice drinks, as well as meat and other protein. Maternal BMIs for overweight children were higher than those for the mothers of the normal weight children and increased across time. More overweight children ate in the presence of another person. The interaction patterns between mothers and overweight children were significantly more positive and responsive than were the interaction patterns of mothers and normal weight children. DiscussionConclusion: multiple ecological factors influence the BMI of the preschooler leading to obesity. Nurses can use these findings to teach parents about the importance managing the environmental factors that contribute to childhood obesity and growth.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)20-38
    Number of pages19
    JournalComprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2010


    • BMI
    • Ecological model of growth
    • Feeding behavior
    • Obesity
    • Toddler

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics


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