Childhood obesity efforts have been characterized by low levels of caregiver involvement. This qualitative study explores caregiver perceptions about childhood obesity prevention. We conducted 12 in-depth interviews with caregivers of African American children aged 8–11 years. We used thematic analysis to identify consistent patterns of preventing childhood obesity and encouraging healthy behaviors. Four themes emerged including rural culture and the built environment, physical and social health effects of childhood obesity, measuring childhood obesity, and preventive strategies. Caregivers are cognizant of childhood obesity risk factors and discussed challenges in their rural environment when attempting to practice and maintain health behaviors for their children. They also stated that caregivers were vital in preventing childhood obesity. Our findings highlight the value of involving caregivers in the design and implementation of childhood obesity initiatives. Additionally, future childhood obesity efforts should equip caregivers and children with behavioral skills and resources to assist in developing healthy habits.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Berge, J. M., Hanson, C., Jin, S. W., Doty, J., Jagaraj, K., Braaten, K., & Doherty, W. J. (2016). Play it forward! A community-based participatory research approach to childhood obesity prevention. Families, Systems & Health, 34(1), 15–30.
Alexander, D. S., Alfonso, M. L., & Hansen, A. (2015). Childhood obesity perceptions among African American caregivers in a rural Georgia community: A mixed methods approach. Journal of Community Health, 40(2), 367–378.
Chen, A. Y., & Escarce, J. J. (2010). Family structure and childhood obesity, early childhood and longitudinal study – Kindergarten cohort. Preventing Chronic Disease, 7(3), A50.
Finkelstein, E. A., Chen, W., Graham, K., & Malhotra, R. (2014). Lifetime direct medical costs of childhood obesity. Pediatrics, 133, 1–9.
Formisano, A., Hunsberger, M., Bammann, K., Vanaelst, B., Molnar, D., Moreno, L. A., Tornaritis, M., Veidebaum, T., Lissner, L., Barba, G., & Siani, A. (2013). Family structure and childhood obesity: Results of the IDEFICS project. Public Health Nutrition, 17(10), 2307–2315.
Gicevic, S., Aftosmes-Tobio, A., Manganello, J. A., Ganter, C., Simon, C. L., Newlan, S., & Davison, K. K. (2016). Parenting and childhood obesity research: A quantitative content analysis of published research 2009-2015. Obesity Reviews, 17(8), 724–734.
Gibbs, G. (2007). Analyzing qualitative data. London: Sage.
Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Hansen, A. R., Duncan, D. T., Tarasenko, Y. N., Fei, Y., & Jian, Z. (2014). Generational shift in parental perceptions of overweight among school-aged children. Pediatrics, 134(3), 481–488.
Jensen, M. D., Ryan, D. H., Apovian, C. M., Ard, J. D., Comuzzie, A. G., Donato, K. A., Hu, F. B., Hubbard, V. S., Jakicic, J. M., Kushner, R. F., Loria, C. M., Millen, B. E., Nonas, C. A., Pi-Sunyer, F. X., Stevens, J., Stevens, V. J., Wadden, T. A., Wolfe, B. M., & Yanovski, S. Z. (2014). AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines and the Obesity Society. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 63(25), 2985–3023.
Johnson, J. A., & Johnson, A. M. (2015). Urban-rural differences in childhood and adolescent obesity in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Childhood Obesity, 11(3), 233–241.
Jurkowski, J., Green Mills, L., Lawson, H., Bovenzi, M. C., Quartimon, R., & Davison, K. K. (2013). Engaging low-income parents in childhood obesity prevention from start to finish: A case study. Journal of Community Health, 38(1), 1–11.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Lloyd, A. B., Lubans, D. R., Plotnikoff, R. C., Collins, C. E., & Morgan, P. J. (2014). Maternal and paternal parenting practices and their influence on children’s adiposity, screen-time, diet, and physical activity. Appetite, 79(1), 149–157.
Maher, J., Fraser, S., & Wright, J. (2010). Framing the mother: Childhood obesity, maternal responsibility and care. Journal of Gender Studies, 19(3), 233–247.
McLeroy, K. R., Bibeau, D., Steckler, A., & Glanz, K. (1988). An ecological perspective on health promotion programs. Health Education Behavior, 15, 351–376.
Miller, D., Johnson, W., Miller, M., Miller, J., & Sutin, A. R. (2016). Caregiver perceptions of childhood weight: Demographic moderators and correlates. Child: Care, Health and Development, 42(3), 370–374.
Muthuri, S. K., Onywera, V. O., Tremblay, M. S., Broyles, S. T., Chaput, J. P., Fogelholm, M., et al. (2016). Relationships between parental education and overweight with childhood overweight and physical activity in 9–11 year old children: Results from a 12-country study. PLoS One, 11(8), 1–14.
Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Flegal, K. M. (2015). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2011–2014. NCHS Data Brief, 219, 1–8.
Parkinson, K., Reilly, J., Basterfiled, L., Reilly, J. K., Janssen, X., Jones, A. R., et al. (2017). Mothers’ perceptions of child weight status and the subsequent weight gain of their children: A population-based longitudinal study. International Journal of Obesity, 41, 801–806.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Porter, L., Shriver, L., & Ramsay, S. (2016). Maternal perceptions related to eating and obesity risk among low-income African American preschoolers. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 20(12), 2565–2572.
Reilly, J., & Kelly, J. (2011). Long term impact of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence on morbidity and premature mortality in adulthood: Systematic review. International Journal of Obesity, 35(7), 891–898.
Saunders, B., Sim, J., Kingstone, T., Baker, S., Waterfield, J., Bartlam, B., Burroughs, H., & Jinks, C. (2018). Saturation in qualitative research: Exploring its conceptualization and operationalization. Quality and Quantity, 52(4), 1893–1907.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity facts. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html. Accessed July 12, 2018.
Yavuz, H. M., Ijzendoorn, M. H., Mesman, J., & Veek, S. (2015). Interventions aimed at reducing obesity in early childhood: A meta-analysis of programs that involve parents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(6), 677–692.
This work was supported by the Georgia Southern University Graduate Student Organization (grant number 1378924576).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Alexander, D.S., Alfonso, M.L. & Nazaruk, D. Exploring Childhood Obesity Perceptions Among Caregivers of African American Children. J Afr Am St 22, 345–356 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-018-9415-7
- Child health
- African American youth
- Qualitative research
- Rural health