Parental Time, Behaviors and Childhood Obesity
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The rates of childhood obesity remain high in spite of the enormous efforts dedicated to tackling the disease. This dissertation investigates the effect of two of its causes, including parental time and children's obesity risk behaviors. Trends in these causes have changed over time and might explain changes in obesity. The two factors are analyzed separately given the differences in impact process and concentration of literature. The data for the investigation is drawn from the Parental Time, Role Strains, Coping, and Children's Diet and Nutrition project. In examining parental time, the attention is directed towards the mother's actual time spent with the child which has been associated with reduction in child weight status. The major aim is to test and correct for the problem of endogeneity stemming from unobserved health factors that can distort any meaningful causal impact of maternal time on child weight status. Using the household production theory, parental time allocation decisions towards child health are modeled and analyzed using instrument variable (IV) methods. Results indicate that the effect of mother's time allocation reduces child weight status. Her decision to allocate time to the child is affected by unseen factors. Father's work to family spillover was found to be a valid instrument for mother's time with the child. Results were robust across different estimators. In analyzing the relationship between childhood obesity risk behaviors and weight status, this study focuses on three child practices including breakfast intake, fast food consumption and sleep patterns. The main aim was to score their joint impact, while at the same time accounting for contextual factors. This work adopted the ecological systems framework which accommodates multiple factors. Based on this theory, a simultaneous system of equations considering child weight status, risk behavior and contextual factors was set up and analyzed using 3SLS. Findings indicated that dietary behaviors remain a major factor in affecting weight status. In addition, feedback mechanism from child weight status will influence the diet pattern adopted by the child. Sleep sufficiency had no effect on child weight status.