All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Jose R Fernandez

Advisory Committee Members

T Mark Beasley

M Amanda Brown

Krista Casazza

Andrea Cherrington

Timothy Nagy

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Health Professions


Disentangling the etiology of pediatric obesity continues to challenge researchers due to the interconnecting of behavioral, physiological, environmental, and genetic factors. Studies have focused on the role of the obesogenic environment, characterized by excess energy intake and sedentary behavior, as it relates to weight and fat gain in children. Although these factors certainly have an impact on fat accumulation, increased energy intake and decreased physical activity do not solely account for the increasing trends in obesity prevalence. Less explored genetic and environmental factors may contribute independently and/or synergistically to the current obesity epidemic, and that, these factors could vary in different groups. The objective of this dissertation is to explore the relationships of non-traditional factors related to the home and school environment and population variation that may contribute to excess fat accumulation and differences in body composition across populations. The specific aims were investigated in a cohort of 301 European-American (n=115), African-American (n=107), and Hispanic-American (n=79) children aged 7-12 (specific aim 1 and 3). A sub-cohort including the European-American children was also investigated and stratified by school status [home-schooled; n=47 vs. traditionally schooled; n=48] for specific aim 2. The first specific aim was to determine whether parental feeding practices differed by race/ethnicity; whether parental pressure to eat and parental restriction were associated with adiposity levels; and to investigate the relationship between parental feeding practices and/or child adiposity with socioeconomic status. In specific aim 2, we aimed to compare and evaluate the relationship between dietary intakes and the school food environment on adiposity between home-schooled children and traditionally schooled children. In the third specific aim, we determined the extent to which individual estimates of African genetic admixture and European genetic admixture contribute to body composition and fat distribution. Our findings suggest that parental restriction, parental pressure to eat, and school status are modifiable environmental factors associated with child adiposity. African genetic admixture and European genetic admixture were related to various measures of body composition. These results have great public health significance and provide further understanding of putative factors that increase the risk for excess fat accrual in children.



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