Causes of American Childhood Obesity Term Paper

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¶ … Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Terms Defined

Preliminary Causes of Obesity: Energy Imbalances

BMI and Other Body Weight Assessments

Behavior and Environment as Causes for Obesity

Psychosocial and Physical Effects of Obesity

Genetics

Family Dynamics and Parenting

Nutrition and Dietary Intake

Participants Selected

Insights

This research study provides a qualitative examination of the physiological and psychological effects of obesity among American children. A comprehensive review of the literature available with regard to obesity research is combined with insight acquired through surveys with K-12 physical education instructors and personal observations. The study results sow that obesity and overweight conditions among adolescents are the results of multiple elements.

The results show that genetic influences may increase an individual's susceptibility to overweight or obese conditions, however do not guarantee obesity later in life. Environmental, behavioral and parental factors were found to contribute most significantly to youths overall health and wellness. The more support children receive, positive affirmations and the more physical activity and education available, the less likely children are to suffer the deleterious effects of obesity, which include poor health, low self-esteem and depression.

INTRODUCTION

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The intent of this research study is an examination of the physiological and psychological effects of obesity among American children. The researcher via qualitative examination intends to observe what factors contribute to obesity, with particular emphasis on genetic, environmental and parental factors that may contribute to obesity. In addition the researcher intends to examine the nutritional and dietary habits of youths in order to determine what factors are most likely to contribute to the growing epidemic striking this nation's youth. In depth investigations will be made to determine what the effects are of obesity among children.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Causes of American Childhood Obesity Assignment

This research is relevant for a number or reasons. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that young Americans are getting wider, to the point where their lives and their mental health are at stake (Crute, 2005). In fact, an epidemic has hit the states, with an alarming rise in Childhood Obesity a problem that actually may begin during the toddler years, as more and more children turn to TV rather than outdoor activity for fun (Tweedie, 2004).

Studies suggest that one in five toddlers is already overweight by the time they hit their fourth birthday (Tweedie, 2004). Overweight toddlers typically become overweight adolescents, with increased risks for strokes and heart disease, asthma, diabetes and even abnormalities of the foot structure as a result of excessive weight (Tweedie, 2004). Problems in adolescents include poor self-esteem, fears of being unpopular and unattractive, depression and by far the worst eating disorders (Tweedie, 2004).

Many studies have focused on single causes of obesity in children including bad dietary habits and inactivity (Tweedie, 2004). The intent of this research study is to provide a more comprehensive examination of the physiological and psychological factors that contribute to obesity in children. Secondary to this the researcher will identify what exactly the effects of obesity are in children both physiologically and psychologically.

Research Questions

In particular the researcher will attempt to answer the following research questions: (1) what combination of physiological and psychological factors are most likely to contribute to obesity, (2) what are the combined physiological and psychological effects of obesity in children. To answer these questions the research focuses on an investigational analysis of all the combined factors including genetic, environmental and parental that may contribute to obesity in youths. From the information gathered from the literature review and the field, the researcher intends to produce a theory grounded in research that not only explains but also helps provide avenues for ameliorating the epidemic that is killing this nation's children.

Significance of Study

Obesity rates among American youth have soared to crisis levels over the past ten years, and the impact is evident in homes across the nation. According to Blasi (2003) obesity is considered "the number one health risk for children in the United States today" (321). The number of children who are now classified as overweight has more than doubled in the last twenty to thirty years alone, with approximately one in five children defined as overweight by health standards (Blasi, 2003). Even though 20 to 30% of children can be classified as obese, the condition remains largely under diagnosed and under treated by many healthcare practitioners and families (Blasi, 2003). Some studies suggest that if a child is overweight by the time they reach the age of six, they are more than 50% likely to be obese when they reach adulthood (Blasi, 2003; Axmaker, 2001).

America's children are literally expanding each and every day. Young adolescents once possessed of small amounts of baby fat have been replaced by obese fifth graders. More and more middle and high school students are diagnosed with diabetes, increased risk factors for cancer, stroke and even heart disease (Crute, 2005; Tweedie, 2004). Health experts are calling it a national crisis, but epidemic is the correct word for the problem that is plaguing the nation's young people (Crute, 2005). Obesity is affecting children's education as well as their quality of life and their life expectancy. (Ogden, 2002).

The percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese is now at its highest. Approximately 25% of children and adolescents are considered overweight, a figure which has doubled in the last 30 years. (American Obesity Association, 2000). Among adolescent boys between the ages of 6 and 11, obesity rates have tripled during the last two decades, and increased more than two and a half times for girls. Obesity is also associated with many adverse side affects including asthma, diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, psychosocial effects, and stigma increased risk of morbidity and mortality. (American Obesity Association, 2000).

Because obesity is associated with chronic disease and adverse health outcomes, the growing incidence of obesity in the population has become a serious public health concern. This study is significant because it will contribute to the current body of research available aimed at overcoming this national crisis.

BACKGROUND

Obesity rates are rising among the nations youth due to a variety of complex factors. One of the more commonly cited factors that is contributing to the nations obesity epidemic is inadequate participation in active sports, both among female and male young children (Tweedie, 2004).

According to the National Association of State Boards of Education (2004) only 8% of elementary schools, 6% of middle schools, and 6% of high schools required daily physical education classes. There was a time in history when all children were required to actively participate in physical education. This is no longer the case. When children are encouraged to participate, they are infused with the idea that winning is ultimately the most important aspect of play, rather then fun, health and fitness.

The National Center for Health Statistics (2004) reported that nine million children over the age six are obese. Another 15% are overweight and borderline "at-risk." 2004 data from the Institute of Medicine reported 13% of Caucasian children ages 12 to 19 are overweight, 21% of African-American children ages 12 to 19 are overweight, and 23% of Mexican-American adolescents are overweight.

Environmental factors and genetics are two major factors contributing to childhood obesity although physical educators nationwide have also seen the results of individual behaviors and family dynamics resulting in poor nutrition choices and lack of exercise. The executive director of the National Board of Educators Association (NEA) Jerry Newberry was quoted in NEAToday (March, 2005) "If kids aren't healthy, their learning suffers." This statement suggests that learning is suffering across the nation.

Part of the problem may be the inordinate amount of fast food that young people consume. According to Moran (1999), "thirty-three percent of adolescents eat fast food everyday." Research shows that sedentary adolescents who eat high-sugar and, high-fat meals have poorer cognitive skills, higher anxiety levels, and problems with hyperactivity. Unhealthy adolescents also tend to miss school more.

NEAtoday (March 2005) found that schools in every state had reported that "tens of millions of dollars" were lost because of absenteeism caused by inactivity and poor nutrition (Crute, 2005). Interestingly enough despite this few researchers have examined what if any affects a nutritional education program might have on childhood behaviors.

There are emotional downsides to childhood obesity as well. As a physical educator of 12 years I have witnessed obese children who could not play sports, who could barely fit into their desks at school, and who could not get through a school day without being bullied by peers. "The psychological risks can be as great as the physical risks," says Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists. "Low self-esteem and depression can undermine children's learning, behavior, and well-being" (Moran, 1999).

The most immediate consequence of being overweight during childhood and adolescence are psychosocial (Dietz, 1998). The social implications of obesity are a major problem area that is often neglected. "The obese do less well academically, have poorer job prospects and lower self-esteem. The latter often caused by repeated failures at weight… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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