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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Jun;20(6):1142-57. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.376. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

A review of family and environmental correlates of health behaviors in high-risk youth.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.


Disparities in the prevalence of obesity in youth place minority and low socioeconomic status youth at increased risk for the development of chronic disease, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Contributing factors to the increases in obesity include a decline in positive health behaviors, such as making healthy dietary choices, engaging in physical activity, and limiting sedentary behaviors. Family and physical environmental contextual factors related to health behaviors are increasingly the focus of health behavior interventions in line with the bioecological model that encourages a system-focused perspective on understanding health behavior influences. Physical environmental characteristics, such as home and neighborhood characteristics and resources, provide the tangible means to support health behaviors and are important contextual variables to consider that may increase intervention effectiveness. Therefore, the current review seeks to highlight the importance of investigating influences of behavior beyond individual characteristics in understanding factors related to the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in youth at high risk for developing chronic disease. The current study reviews the non-intervention literature on family and physical environmental factors related to health behaviors (i.e., diet, physical activity, and sedentary behavior) in youth who are considered to be at-risk for developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Results on 38 published articles of diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors showed support for the role of parenting and physical environmental factors, particularly parental monitoring and neighborhood context, such as social cohesion, as they relate to health behaviors in high-risk youth. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.

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