Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Chair

Kathleen Yadrick

Committee Chair Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 2

Carol Connell

Committee Member 2 Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 3

Holly Huye

Committee Member 3 Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 4

Denise Brown

Committee Member 4 Department

Nutrition and Food Systems


Child obesity is affecting children’s health nationwide. Rates are highest among African Americans (AA) in the South. Research has explored parents’ influence on child eating and activity, but most has reported on mothers’ influences. The purpose of this research was to investigate perceptions about AA fathers’ influences on their children’s eating and physical activity. Using a structured focus group questionnaire based on the parent layer constructs of Birch and Ventura’s Ecological Model for Child Overweight (2009), four focus groups were conducted with 28 AA fathers with children 6- to 11-years-old in a rural and an urban church setting in southeast Louisiana. Data was coded using deductive content analysis and a matrix based on model constructs. Most fathers were knowledgeable about healthy eating, but indicated that fathers’ typical focus in feeding their children was simply making sure they were not hungry. Cultural food preferences influenced rural fathers’ diets more than urban, but both groups agreed that their children’s diets were more influenced by the fast food environment. Fathers were involved with food shopping, with food preferences, health, and cost affecting their food purchases. Most affirmed providing support for their children’s physical activity and monitoring their children’s screen time as important. Participants believed that AA fathers intensely influence their children, especially boys, in many aspects of their lives, including eating and physical activity. Fathers stated that study participation made them more aware of their responsibility and potential influences on their children’s eating and physical activity habits, and of the importance of role modeling and educating their children about healthy lifestyles, so that their children did not experience the burden of chronic disease typical for their own generation.

Findings suggest the relevance of the parent constructs of the Child Overweight Ecological Model to the population of interest, and support a body of literature indicating that fathers should be an intervention focus. Future research should explore AA fathers’ knowledge and practices related to child feeding, the specific ways in which they provide support for children’s activity and monitor sedentary behavior, and ways to support fathers’ role modeling of healthy eating and physical activity.