Obesity was a factor in over 16,000 cancer-related deaths in African-Americans (Blacks) in 2011. Blacks have the highest prevalence of obesity and cancer death rates of any group in the United States. Obesity and lifestyle behaviors related to increased cancer risks are often established during childhood, highlighting the importance of parenting behaviors in reducing obesity-related cancer risks. The proposed study examines the influence of coping in mitigating the effects of stress on caregiver behaviors that promote child obesity, fast food, fruit and vegetable consumption, activity and inactivity. The long term research objective is to develop an intervention for Black families to reduce obesity-related cancer risk in children. Stress, defined as the negative psychological response to events that are perceived as taxing, in Black adults is associated with haphazard meal planning and increased consumption of high-fat/high-sugar foods. Stress in parents/caregivers (here on referred to as "caregivers") is associated with child obesity, fast food consumption, and decreased vegetable intake. Differential use of coping styles in Blacks and Whites has been postulated as a cause for health disparities. There is evidence that compared with Whites, Blacks are more likely to use religious and culturally influenced coping. Both of these types of coping have aspects that either increase the risk of obesity (negative coping) or decrease the risk of obesity (positive coping). A mixed-methods design will be used to identify how stress and coping influence parenting behaviors that may be associated with child obesity.
The research aims are: (1) to characterize the relationships among stress, coping skills and parenting behaviors of Black caregivers that promote child obesity;and (2) to measure the association of stress and culturally-influenced and religious coping styles with parenting behaviors of Black caregivers that promote child obesity. To accomplish these aims, first a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews will be used to characterize the influence of stress and coping on parenting related to child obesity in 48 caregivers of children ages 3-7 years. Second, a cross-sectional study will measure these relationships in 164 caregivers and their children ages 3-7 years. This study will be conducted in the Black church community to reflect the fact that 85% of Blacks consider themselves a part of Black church culture. These studies will inform future projects that develop and test interventions to prevent child obesity and future cancer risk.

Public Health Relevance

African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with and suffer greater complications from cancer, often as a result of obesity, decreased physical activity and poor nutrition. These behaviors that increase the risk of cancer often begin in childhood under the influence of parents. The goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of how stress and coping in African-American parents influence the physical activity and nutrition environments of their children, in order to gain insights about potential ways to prevent childhood obesity and the future development of cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Subcommittee G - Education (NCI)
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Wali, Anil
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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
United States
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