Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Karen A. Polonko

Committee Member

Dianne C. Carmody

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 D75 2013


Over the past 30 years in the United States childhood obesity has more than tripled (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). In 2008, 18.5% of adolescents of the age 12-18 years old were obese in the United States (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). With the increase of obesity Americans have spent approximately 9% of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses (Finkelstein, Fiebelkorn, &Wang, 2003). Previous research documented the relationship between virtually every form of child abuse and subsequent obesity. Restricting focus to child emotional abuse, while studies have linked emotional abuse to the long-term consequence of adulthood obesity, the short term consequence of adolescent obesity as a result of emotional abuse has not been studied.

This study addressed this issuing using data from the National Longitudinal Survey for Youths. The relationship between six forms of less severe child emotional abuse and neglect and subsequent adolescent obesity across the span of 4, 7, and 11 years was examined. This allowed for observation of both the short and long-term relationship between the forms of child emotional abuse and obesity. Additionally, the study examined the difference between experiencing emotional abuse by a mother and a father and its relationship to obesity.

Each of the six measures of emotional abuse, mother lack of praise, father lack of praise, mother blame, father blame, mother criticism, and father criticism all are significantly related to the adolescents' obesity 4 years later. Seven years later, five of the six child emotional abuse variables remained correlated with obesity. Eleven years later, two of the sex child emotional abuse variables remained correlated with obesity. Additionally, the study proved that father emotional abuse was significantly related to obesity in the 3 years studied.

Adolescent obesity is significantly related to the experience of child emotional abuse and neglect. This adds to our understanding of the effect of child emotional abuse throughout the life cycle. In order for our country to properly address the obesity epidemic we need to understand all aspects of obesity. This study contributes to previous literature surrounding child emotional abuse and obesity and demonstrates that obesity is a short term consequence of emotional abuse.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).