Family Influences and Healthy Weight for Korean-American Preschool Children

2016-06-21T00:00:00Z (GMT) by So Hyun Park
The number of Korean-Americans (KA) and the prevalence of obesity among them are increasing, but little is known about obesity among KA preschoolers. This doctoral dissertation was conducted to explore KA family context regarding child’s overweight and to examine family factors relate to overweight among KA preschool-age children. In the first study, focus group interviews with 15 mothers were conducted. A semi-structured focus group guide was used to capture KA mothers’ experience in bringing up children in the U.S., their perspectives about childhood obesity, and their children’s dietary habits and physical activities. KA mothers tried to retain Korean culture and fulfill high expectation of mother’s role without the supports they would have in Korea. KA mothers prefer plumpness in children and are not concerned about obesity among KA children because they believe their efforts in shaping healthy environment are protective. In the second study, a cross-sectional study was conducted with 104 KA preschoolers and their mothers in the Chicago metropolitan area. Twenty-two percent of the KA preschoolers were overweight or obese (BMI ≥85th percentile), and family factors explained 30% of the variance in child’s overweight. The number of children in the family and perceived child weight was positively associated with overweight, while pressure to eat, monitoring of eating, and behavior control of children were negatively associated with overweight. Taken together, this dissertation research shows that overweight among KA preschool-age children is a substantial problem in KA communities. However, most KA mothers had a lack of awareness about overweight among their children. Therefore, more efforts are needed to increase mothers’ attention to overweight prevention and control among their KA preschool-age children. Future studies should examine the influence of siblings and the child’s routines during their stay in formal care settings as factors contributing to child overweight, and longitudinal studies are needed to examine causal relationships. These study results will contribute to the development of culturally appropriate intervention programs for reducing overweight among KA preschoolers. Interventions should include enhancing supports for KA mothers, including utilizing available support though social networks such as KA churches.

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