Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Dr. Holm

Second Advisor

Dr. McDonald


Obesity has become a major health concern for American Indians. Obesity prevalence is higher for minority groups, however American Indians consistently have higher rates than any other U.S. population. Of more concern is the trend towards higher rates of overweight and obesity in American Indian children. Obesity has been associated with many health concerns such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes mellitus in both American Indian adults and children. The purpose of this study is to identify predictor variables that may be contributing to the development or possibly maintenance of obesity in American Indian children. The sample consisted of 291 tribally enrolled American Indian students (grade 3-5). In addition, a smaller sample of 80 parents/caregivers participated in this study. Child participants completed several questionnaires pertaining to the following topics: demographics, diet and physical activity, weight-related attitudes, psychological/emotional, and cultural identity. Parents/caregivers completed a similar research packet and most items were related to parent/caretaker's personal attitudes and behaviors. Two multiple regression analyses were conducted to observe the predictive power of independent variables on child BMI scores. The first data analyses were structured hierarchically to investigate the contributions of the following five blocks or sets of predictor variables: (a) demographic variables (i.e., gender and SES), (b) food selection and physical activity measures (i.e., food choice intention, knowledge of fatty foods, food self-efficacy, physical activity, and sedentary behavior), (c) attitudes about body size (i.e., body dissatisfaction, attitudes toward body size, attempted weight loss), ( d) emotional eating variables (i.e., self-esteem and emotional eating), and ( e) cultural identity. A simultaneous multiple regression was also conducted on a pre-selected set of parental/caretaker variables (adult/caretaker BMI, birth weight of 1st child, and parent/caretaker body dissatisfaction) to assess their relationship to the dependent variable (child BMI). This study found that 33% of Northern Plains American Indian children were overweight and 20% were at risk for becoming overweight. Results also revealed that demographics, diet and physical activity, and weight-related attitudes explained a significant amount of variance ( 41.5%) in child BMI. Statistically significant unique contributions were observed for gender, food choice intentions, sedentary behaviors, attitudes towards body size, body dissatisfaction, and attempted weight loss. In addition, results showed that parent/caretaker BMI, birth weight of 1st child, and parent/caretaker body dissatisfaction explained a significant amount of variance (15%) in child BMI scores; however, none of the predictors accounted for a significant unique contribution to the overall model.