Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Christoff

Second Advisor

Scott A. Gustafson

Third Advisor

Beth Boerger

Abstract

Child obesity rates have reached an all-time high in the United States; with rates doubling over the past 30 years for children ages 2-5 (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2004). This increase in obesity rates has led to increased research directed at understanding the causes in order to begin to reverse the trend and prevent our children from becoming obese. The literature shows that several key variables, including child physical activity level, parent physical activity level, and peer influences on the playground are related to childhood obesity (Epstein, 2005; Salvy, 2008; Trost, et al., 2003). Much of this research however has been on older children that are past the key age range for effective early intervention and prevention. Because there has been very little attention to very young children, it is important to begin to look at whether or not the relationships seen for older children also occur in younger samples. The current study attempted to extend the finding that the presence of adolescent friends on the playground increases physical activity level in a preschool sample (Salvy, 2008). In order to better understand the peer influences at work, sociometric interviews were conducted with the children both at the beginning and end of the study in order to assess preschoolers’ social relationships. Playground observations were conducted throughout the study to determine which children are physically more or less active, assess changes in level of physical activity over time, and determine whether or not play is occurring in the presence of friends. After all data was collected, sociometric interviews were analyzed to determine correlations between variables, and a one-way analysis of variance was used to determine if friends’ presence on the playground increased physical activity level. No significant relationship was found between level of physical activity and friendship presence on the playground. Possible explanations and implications for further research are discussed, along with pertinent limitations of the study.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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