Generation, language, body mass index, and activity patterns in Hispanic children

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Feb;38(2):145-53. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.09.041.


Background: The acculturation hypothesis proposes an overall disadvantage in health outcomes for Hispanic immigrants with more time spent living in the U.S., but little is known about how generational status and language may influence Hispanic children's relative weight and activity patterns.

Purpose: To investigate associations among generation and language with relative weight (BMI z-scores), physical activity, screen time, and participation in extracurricular activities (i.e., sports, clubs) in a U.S.-based, nationally representative sample of Hispanic children.

Methods: Participants included 2012 Hispanic children aged 6-11 years from the cross-sectional 2003 National Survey of Children's Health. Children were grouped according to generational status (first, second, or third), and the primary language spoken in the home (English versus non-English). Primary analyses included adjusted logistic and multinomial logistic regression to examine the relationships among variables; all analyses were conducted between 2008 and 2009.

Results: Compared to third-generation, English speakers, first- and second-generation, non-English speakers were more than two times more likely to be obese. Moreover, first-generation, non-English speakers were half as likely to engage in regular physical activity and sports. Both first- and second-generation, non-English speakers were less likely to participate in clubs compared to second- and third-generation, English speakers. Overall, non-English-speaking groups reported less screen time compared to third-generation, English speakers.

Conclusions: The hypothesis that Hispanics lose their health protection with more time spent in the U.S. was not supported in this sample of Hispanic children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Exercise*
  • Family Characteristics / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Sedentary Behavior / ethnology
  • United States