Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 632–643 | Cite as

Violence Victimization Predicts Body Mass Index One Decade Later among an Urban Sample of African American Young Adults: Sex as a Moderator and Dehydroepiandrosterone as a Mediator

  • Shervin AssariEmail author
  • Cleopatra Howard Caldwell
  • James L. Abelson
  • Marc Zimmerman


Psychological stressors such as violence victimization are known contributors to obesity. However, moderators and mediators of this association have not been studied, although they might offer pathways for intervention or prevention. Using a sample of African American young adults, this study tested: (1) the moderating effect of sex on the effect of violence victimization on trajectories of body mass index (BMI), and (2) the mediating effect of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on this association. This 13-year longitudinal study followed 73 male and 80 female African American young adults who lived in an urban area from 1999 to 2012 when the youth were 20–32 years old. The independent variable was violence victimization measured in 1999 and 2000. The dependent variable was BMI measured in 2002 and 2012. The mediator was DHEA measured in 2001 and 2002. Multilevel path analysis was used to test if males and females differed in violence victimization predicting change in BMI (Model I) and the mediating effect of DHEA change on the above association (Model II). The results of Model I suggested that the change in violence victimization from 1999 to 2000 predicted change in BMI from 2002 to 2012 for females, but not males. Based on Model II, the DHEA change from 2000 to 2001 for females fully mediated the association between violence victimization from 1999 to 2000 and increases in BMI from 2002 to 2012. Our findings suggest that violence victimization in urban areas contributes to the development of obesity among African American female young adults and change in DHEA mediates this link. Violence prevention may have important implications for obesity prevention of African American young women who live in unsafe urban areas. This study also suggests that DHEA may be involved in the violence victimization–obesity link for African American women.


Sex African Americans Violence Obesity Dehydroepiandrosterone 



This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant DA035811-05 (PI = M. Zimmerman). Shervin Assari is supported by grants from Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) H0CMS331621 and NIH (U54 MD007598, U54MD008149, MD007610, U54MD007598, U54 TR001627, D084526-03, and CA201415-02).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The University of Michigan (U of M) Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved the FAS study protocol. All participants signed assent or consent forms (depending their age) before each interview.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family MedicineCharles R Drew University of Medicine and ScienceLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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