Context: Recently, studies using a social ecological perspective have identified important micro- and macro-level risk factors for excessive adiposity in youth. Although considerable research exists examining these relationships, few studies have applied a socioecological approach to simultaneously examine both micro- and macro-level factors in young children while objectively assessing adiposity via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
Objective: To examine race and sex differences in adiposity measured by DXA in a large sample of young children and to identify both micro- and macro-level correlates of adiposity.
Setting and Participants: Elementary school children (N = 495) from the southeastern United States participated. Anthropometrics, percentage body fat via DXA, and psychosocial variables via questionnaire were assessed in the Fall of 2003. Community-level sociodemographic data and built-environment variables via geographic information system were collected in Spring 2009. Data analyses were completed in the Spring of 2010.
Results: Percentage body fat in white children was higher than in nonwhite children. Higher percentage body fat and poorer cardiovascular fitness were found in females compared with males. Percentage body fat was higher in children who had lower athletic competence and lived in neighborhoods with higher percentages of minority residents.
Conclusion: This study provides preliminary support for the social-ecological model to explain variance in adiposity in children. Developers of health promotion programs for children living in minority neighborhoods should consider factors at multiple levels of the ecological model when designing and implementing programs.