"It Hurts a Latina When They Tell Us Anything about Our Children": Implications of Mexican-Origin Mothers' Maternal Identities, Aspirations, and Attitudes about Cultural Transmission for Childhood Obesity Prevention

By Davis, Rachel E.; Cole, Suzanne M. et al. | Childhood Obesity, October 2015 | Go to article overview

"It Hurts a Latina When They Tell Us Anything about Our Children": Implications of Mexican-Origin Mothers' Maternal Identities, Aspirations, and Attitudes about Cultural Transmission for Childhood Obesity Prevention


Davis, Rachel E., Cole, Suzanne M., Reyes, Ligia I., McKenney-Shubert, Shannon J., Peterson, Karen E., Childhood Obesity


[Author Affiliation]

Rachel E. Davis. 1 Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Suzanne M. Cole. 2 Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Ligia I. Reyes. 1 Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Shannon J. McKenney-Shubert. 3 The Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc. , Detroit, MI.

Karen E. Peterson. 2 Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Address correspondence to: Rachel E. Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 915 Greene Street, Room 529, Columbia, SC 29208, E-mail: rdavis@mailbox.sc.edu

Introduction

Approximately 33% of Mexican American children ages 2-5 are overweight or obese,1 and Hispanic children, who are predominantly of Mexican descent,2 have a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than children from other races and ethnicities.3 Along with other factors, researchers often mention culture as a possible determinant of behaviors associated with obesity risk among immigrant and minority Latino children.4-7 This reasoning suggests that culture may be partially accountable for ethnic disparities in childhood obesity. However, further research is needed to determine whether or not and how culture influences behaviors associated with childhood obesity risk.

Approximately 69% of Mexican Americans are foreign-born or have at least one parent who was foreign-born,2 indicating that the majority of Mexican American children are raised in families in which immigration is a relatively recent experience. As Mexican immigrants adopt the dominant language, culture, and customs of the United States, they evince poorer health, whereas an opposite pattern may be found among other Latino ethnic groups.8 A growing body of literature indicates that acculturation among Latinos is associated with decreased fruit and vegetable intake and increased sugar and fast food consumption.9 Less research has focused on understanding how immigration and culture affect parental behaviors associated with childhood obesity risk. Sussner and colleagues10 found that immigrant Latina mothers face several barriers in the United States in preventing childhood obesity: larger portion sizes; increased access to unhealthy foods; attitudes supporting child overweight; and more time spent in sedentary activities. Cultural beliefs and norms may also influence the foods that Latina parents make available,11-16 modeling of dietary behaviors and food-related parenting styles,4,17-19 beliefs about child weight,5,16,20 and the meaning imparted to foods.21 However, these behaviors and beliefs are likely rooted in more deeply held, underlying cultural values and norms, which are shaped by parents' cultures of origin as well as their immigration experiences and personal identities. For preschool-aged children, behaviors associated with childhood obesity risk are largely determined by the environments their parents create.22,23 Thus, it is important to understand whether or not and how core cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs held by Mexican-origin parents influence the health behavior environments they create for their children in the United States.

This qualitative study sought to identify and understand core values, attitudes, and beliefs held by Mexican-origin mothers of preschool-aged children in the United States that may influence behaviors associated with childhood obesity risk. …

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