Socioeconomic Factors Related to Obesity in Children and Adolescents
This chapter will explore socioeconomic risks for the development and persistence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents. These factors are part of the social environment in which the developing child is immersed. In childhood and adolescence, health and development are inextricably linked. However, although the influence of the social environment on the developing child has been the subject of research for decades, research into the process by which the social world (and in particular its structuring) influences health is explored less well (Adler et al., 1994; Anderson & Armstead, 1995; Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Williams, 1990). It is especially important to understand how social hierarchies influence children's health and well-being, because children do not have a voice in the political process that shapes their socioeconomic context.
Understanding socioeconomic risks for obesity is critical because so many children and adolescents live in lower socioeconomic environments. U.S. census data indicates that nearly one in six children under the age of 18 years live in poverty. Data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health revealed that seven out of every 10 teens live in a home without a college-educated parent; for one in 10, no parent in the home completed high school or received a GED. Lower socioeconomic status represents a pervasive environmental exposure that may be, as Cassel said, “capable of changing human resistance in important ways and making subsets of people more or less susceptible to these ubiquitous agents in our environment” (Cassel, 1976, p. 108). Thus, many young people are developing in a low social status environment that influences both their psychological and physiological functioning.
KeywordsSocioeconomic Status Socioeconomic Factor Lower Socioeconomic Status Adolescent Obesity Allostatic Load
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