Ongoing Projects

Adolescent Stress and Health (ASH) Project
Pediatric obesity is a public health epidemic. Approximately 32% of US children and adolescents are currently either overweight or obese, and low-income youth are at even greater risk (Ogden et al., 2010). Adolescent obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease and metabolic problems) and poor psychosocial outcomes (e.g., poor quality of life and low self-esteem) (Israel & Ivanova, 2002; Weiss et al., 2004). Furthermore, obesity may reduce overall adult life expectancy (Fontaine et al., 2003).

This study will examine contributors to obesity risk in low-income adolescents by examining the effects of stress on health in adolescents from low-income families. We will be examining the similarities and differences between adolescents who are overweight and those who are not overweight. We are interested in learning about how stress influences adolescents’ health-related habits, including their eating habits, and about the influence of various aspects of the family environment. We are also interested in collecting adolescents’ saliva to measure changes in chemicals (e.g., the stress hormone cortisol) present in adolescents’ bodies when they complete different kinds of challenging tasks. For this study we are recruiting adolescents and their parents/caregivers. This study represents a collaboration between the Department of Psychology at Kent State University and the Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology at Akron Children's Hospital. We expect to begin data collection within the next month.

Pediatric Obesity Project (POP)
This research is being conducted in collaboration with the Pediatric Weight Management Program at Akron Children’s Hospital. This project will focus on examining the psychosocial (e.g., mental health, stress, family characteristics) and medical aspects of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents who are referred to the Pediatric Weight Management Program at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Late Adolescent Weight Gain in College Freshman
The goal of this research study is to examine contributors to weight gain and obesity risk among late adolescents during the transition to college. The transition to college has been pegged as a high-risk time for weight gain. The freshman year is the time when students purportedly gain the “freshman 15”, a fifteen pound weight gain stemming from the transitions and large-scale changes for students entering university (Holm-Denoma et al., 2008; Vella-Zarb & Elgar, 2009). Researchers hypothesize reasons for this weight gain, including increased stress and reduced physical activity, and it is through the evaluation of stress management and lifestyle choices that we hope to better understand specific variables that are linked to this weight gain. This study aims to better understand the role of variables such as stress, eating patterns, self-concept, social support, physical activity and academic performance. Participants will be examined at four different time points throughout their freshman year of college: beginning of the first semester, end of the first semester, beginning of the second semester, and end of the second semester. We are currently collecting data for this study.

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