Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nursing Science

Research Advisor

Carolyn J. Graff, Ph.D.


Patricia A. Cowan, Ph.D. Marion E. Hare, M.D. Elizabeth A. Tolley, Ph.D. Mona N. Wicks, Ph.D


African American, Depression, Obesity, Physical Activity, Self-Efficacy


In recent decades the prevalence of childhood and adult depression and obesity has increased worldwide. Multiple factors influence the onset of both depression and obesity. Individual manifestations of depressive symptomatology and health-related problems associated with obesity vary; however, genetics and environmental and psychological factors have been implicated as correlates. Consequently, both disorders can ultimately interfere with individuals’ activities of daily living and decrease their quality of life. African American women are known to have a higher prevalence of obesity and more severe depressive symptoms in comparison to Caucasian women. Likewise, African American children are more obese and experience many factors that influence the onset of depressive symptoms. With increases in the prevalence of childhood obesity and diagnoses of mood disorders in youth, analyzing the family’s influence on these outcomes has become increasingly important. The purpose of this correlational study was to examine the associations among child depressive symptoms, body mass index (BMI) Z-scores, and physical activity self-efficacy and maternal depressive symptoms and BMI in African American mother-child dyads. A community sample of 65 African American mother-child dyads was recruited. Data were collected on height and weight to estimate BMI and self-report questionnaires were used to assess depressive symptoms among participating mothers and their children. Additional information on physical activity self-efficacy was collected from each child. Pearson product moment correlation coefficients were estimated to determine associations between variables that were sampled from underlying normal distributions. Spearman correlation coefficients were estimated to assess correlates of maternal BMI because data from this variable did not reflect sampling from a normal distribution. Results indicated positive correlations between children’s depressive symptoms and their BMI Z-scores and their mothers’ depressive symptoms. More depressive symptoms in children were related to having a higher BMI Z-score and a mother with more depressive symptoms. Results also indicated important correlations for the children’s physical activity self-efficacy with their depressive symptoms, their BMI Z-scores, and maternal depressive symptoms. Although several associations were found between the children’s physical activity self-efficacy and their depressive symptoms, BMI Z-scores, and maternal depressive symptoms, researchers should cautiously rely on self-reports of physical activity self-efficacy from younger children given that some children had difficulty understanding the self-efficacy measure. Findings suggest that the associations between depressive symptoms, BMI, and physical activity self-efficacy in African American mother-child dyads merit additional examination as such research studies may inform future approaches to prevent and treat obesity and depression in this population.