Weight-related attitudes and behaviors in fourth grade American Indian children

Obes Res. 1999 Jan;7(1):34-42. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00388.x.


Objective: American Indian children have a high prevalence of obesity, yet little is known about weight-related attitudes and the prevalence of dieting in this population. This study assessed weight concerns, body size perceptions, weight reduction attempts, and weight loss methods in fourth grade American Indian children.

Research methods and procedures: Participants (n = 304) attended one of eight schools in the Pathways Feasibility Study. Question and answer choices were read to children by trained staff, and children marked their own answers.

Results: Thirty-eight percent of the children reported that they had tried to lose weight. The most common strategy for weight reduction was exercising more. Girls were more likely than boys to be dissatisfied with their body size (48% of girls vs. 34% of boys desired a slimmer body size; 22% of girls vs. 15% of boys desired a larger body size; p<0.001). Children who had tried to lose weight were more likely to indicate that the size they most desired and the most healthy size were smaller than their perceived size (p<0.001). Children who reported trying to lose weight were also more likely to want to be skinnier and to be unhappy about their weight than were children who did not report trying to lose weight (p<0.001 for both).

Discussion: We conclude that weight loss attempts and weight-related concerns are prevalent in American Indian children at a young age.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arizona
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • New Mexico
  • South Dakota
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss / physiology