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Eat Behav. 2003 Jan;3(4):307-23.

Examining gender, racial, and age differences in weight concern among third, fifth, eighth, and eleventh graders.

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  • 1Health Promotion Program, College of Education, Coastal Carolina University, PO Box 261954, Conway, SC 29528, USA. thompson@coastal.edu


Weight management and concern, body weight beliefs, and perceptions of friend's and family's weight concerns were examined in this study by race, grade, and gender. A stratified random sample was used to select schools within nine districts in South Carolina and an anonymous self-report paper-pencil questionnaire was completed by the students. The final sample included 3151 African American (42.3%) and White (57.7%) children (51.7% female) in the third (n=599), fifth (n=686), eighth (n=1168), and eleventh (n=698) grades. White girls were more likely to report being overweight (P=.0042), having higher personal weight concerns (P<.0001), and perceiving higher friend (P<.0001) and family weight concerns (P<.0001) than the African American girls. Using multiple regression, 29.8% of the variance in the children's personal weight concern scores was explained by perceptions of family's weight concerns (R(2)=.1659), gender (R(2)=.0762), perceptions of friend's weight concerns (R(2)=.0392), grade (R(2)=.0094), a Race x Gender interaction (R(2)=.0042), and race (R(2)=.003). Most of the children, particularly the white girls, have personal weight concerns and dieting practices which place them at risk for possible health problems. These results support the need for nutrition interventions and education in early childhood. Programs to prevent obesity and eating disorders should be tailored for differences by gender, grade, and race.

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