Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Mexican-origin youth in the U.S. are at risk for obesity (Fryar et al., 2018) and mental health concerns (McLaughlin, Hilt, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2007). One key psychosocial process implicated in this health inequity is family conflict (Conger et al., 1999), which has been associated with both poor mental health outcomes (e.g. Santiago & Wadsworth, 2009) and overweight and obesity (Halliday et al., 2013). However, no research to date has examined the complex interplay of family conflict, mental health problems and body mass indices (BMI) over time. The present study examined cross-lagged associations among child z-scored BMI (zBMI), mental health problems (internalizing symptoms and externalizing symptoms) and family conflict at three time-points over the course of one year during middle childhood. Participants included 104 low-income Mexican-origin immigrant families with children ages 6-10 (Mage = 8.39; 61% female). Questionnaires, anthropomorphic measurements, and observational data were collected at three timepoints over the course of one year. Cross-lagged path analyses were run and equivalence testing was used to examine sex differences in model fit. Of the panel models examined, only one demonstrated significant cross-lagged associations over time: externalizing symptoms, food specific family conflict and child zBMI. Model fit was equivalent for boys and girls across models. Findings suggest that conflict about food choice and eating may be an important area of intervention for school-age youth with overweight or obesity, in particular, in its relationship with externalizing behaviors.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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