173999 Perceptions of adolescents and community informants: A qualitative analysis of overweight in childhood

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 1:30 PM

Deirdra A. Murphy, DPT, MS, MHA , Physical Therapy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Cynthia M. Ferrara, PhD , Physical Therapy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA

Overweight in childhood has reached epidemic proportions. Childhood overweight is more likely to carry over into adulthood, which can lead to many serious life-threatening diseases. The purpose of this study was to generate information using qualitative analysis about the perceptions of adolescents and community key informants about the causes of overweight and possible interventions.


Three adult and ten adolescent focus groups were conducted. Study participants consisted of parents, adult key informants, and adolescents from a mid-size ethnically diverse urban city in the Northeast. A total of five parents, 14 key informants, and 67 adolescents participated. Six focus group questions centered on the adolescents' and community key informants' perceptions of the origins of increasing childhood overweight and possible intervention strategies. The focus group data was analyzed using the tools from a qualitative computer software package, NVivo 7. The data was sorted, organized, conceptualized, refined, and interpreted based on grounded theory. Coding journals were utilized to systemically reflect the inductive reasoning used throughout the analysis by the researchers.


The five major themes from the data analysis indicated the influences of family, media, peers, role modeling, the pressures of stress and money, and the school environment all were significant for teens in their perceptions about childhood overweight. Gender and ethnicity were attributes which differentiated some of the perceptions of the adolescents. Parents identified work, time and safety as major themes, which influence physical activity and nutritional choices. Educating and motivating children, families and afterschool staff were key issues identified by community key informants for increasing physical activity and improving nutrition.


The perceptions of a diverse group of adolescents, parents and key informants can inform relevant stakeholders. The implications from the study highlight the multisystemic causes of overweight in childhood as perceived by adolescents, parents and key informants. The findings may be used by community members, school personnel, parents and policy makers in designing health promotion programs to increase physical activity and improve nutrition for children.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify barriers to physical activity and good nutrition in adolescents and children, based on the perceptions of adolescents and community key informants �� 2. Evaluate key strategies for developing interventions to prevent overweight in children and adolescents. 3. Describe potential causes for the increase in overweight in children, based on the perceptions of adolescents and community key informants.

Keywords: Adolescents, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was involved in the design development and data collection and analysis for the study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.