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According to many public health experts, obesity is the most serious health threat facing today’s early adolescents. This study examined the relationship between psychosocial adjustment (i.e., internalizing behaviors, externalizing behaviors, interpersonal skills) and weight status change during early adolescence and possible moderating roles of gender, ethnicity, and acculturation. Data came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a US nationally representative sample of children who entered kindergarten during 1998–1999 and were followed through eighth grade. The current study was initiated in the fifth grade (n = 6,860; 51 % female). At fifth grade, parents reported on household routines; children and teachers reported on indicators of psychosocial adjustment. At fifth and eighth grade, children’s weight was measured. Girls’ weight status stability and change was more likely than boys’ to be associated with psychosocial adjustment, after accounting for household/child routines and demographic variables. Compared to non-Hispanic White, Hispanic girls who exhibited higher levels of externalizing behaviors at fifth grade were more likely to become or stay obese at eighth grade. Hispanic girls who exhibited higher levels of internalizing behaviors at fifth grade were more likely to become or stay at a healthy weight at eighth grade, especially if they reported lower levels of acculturation. Lastly, African American girls with better interpersonal skills at fifth grade were more likely to stay obese at eighth grade. Implications for obesity prevention programs with early adolescents are discussed in the contexts of gender, ethnicity and acculturation.
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- Early Adolescents’ Psychosocial Adjustment and Weight Status Change: The Moderating Roles of Gender, Ethnicity, and Acculturation
Linda C. Halgunseth
- Springer US