Mexican American Mothers' Perceptions of Childhood Obesity and Their Role in Prevention
Sosa, Erica T.
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The childhood obesity epidemic continues to escalate, disproportionately impacting Mexican American children. It is unclear how Mexican American mothers, who are at high-risk of rearing obese children, perceive childhood obesity, prevention or their role in prevention. Three studies - a systematic literature review, a qualitative study focusing on Mexican American mothers' perceptions of childhood obesity, and a qualitative study examining Mexican American mothers' perceptions regarding childhood obesity prevention and their role in prevention - were used to address this research question. The first study is a systematic review of the literature regarding Mexican American mothers' perceptions of childhood obesity and their role in prevention. Four databases were searched for relevant articles and 22 studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Social Cognitive Theory was used to sort similar findings across studies and identify scarce areas researched. Major findings included: (a) mothers felt inadequate to be role models for their children's healthy behaviors, (b) mothers did not identify short-term consequences of childhood obesity, (c) only 23% of studies explicitly used a theoretical framework to guide their study, and (d) most studies used heterogeneous groups (including all caretakers, including all Hispanics/Latinos) to discuss perceptions. The second study used naturalistic inquiry to examine mothers' perceptions regarding childhood obesity, its causes and its consequences. Using a Social Ecological Model adapted to childhood obesity, the study examined causes of childhood obesity at different levels of influence - intrapersonal, interpersonal, and community. Obesity was identified as an adult issue by the mothers. Mothers were more aware of the health risks associated with having underweight children rather than overweight children. Lastly, mothers identified overweight children as those who are suffering from consequences. The third study used a narrative inquiry approach to qualitatively investigate mothers' perceptions. Mothers suggested several ways parents could prevent childhood obesity and overweight among their children. However, fathers, grandparents and schools could unintentionally counter mothers' efforts to encourage healthful behaviors. Mothers identified a lack of ability to speak English, feelings of guilt associated with limiting food intake, and a lack of knowledge and skills as impediments in carrying out obesity preventive behaviors within the home.