Over the past two decades, the level of youths’ exposure to violence and rates of childhood and adolescent obesity have increased. These two phenomena may be related. The alarming rise in the prevalence of obesity among children and adults in the past 20 years suggests that environmental and behavioral influences may be fueling the present epidemic. As a result, researchers have begun to move beyond the individual to investigate contributing factors at contextual levels. Boynton-Jarrett is using this William T. Grant Scholar award to examine these relationships. First, she will evaluate the impact of timing of exposure to parental domestic violence on obesity risk during adolescence among youth in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). She will then investigate the relative contribution of neighborhood violence on change in Body Mass Index (BMI) over time. Finally, she will conduct in-depth interviews with youth ages 8 to 12 and their families to develop a pilot intervention. Early findings have revealed distinct gender differences regarding the impact of family violence on obesity risk. Preschool and adolescent girls who were exposed to family violence demonstrated an increased risk for obesity. The investigators have also found a correlation between cumulative violence exposure on BMI trajectory among adolescents, as well as preliminary associations between childhood trauma and earlier onset of puberty among girls. First, Boynton-Jarrett will evaluate the impact of timing and chronicity of exposure to parental domestic violence on obesity risk during adolescence among youth in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). She will then use multilevel modeling to investigate the relative contribution of neighborhood violence on change in BMI over time while controlling for individual self-report of violence exposure in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). The last part of the project will involve in-depth, qualitative interviews with youth ages 8–12 and their families to develop a pilot intervention.
How does neighborhood and family violence affect risk for adolescent obesity?