PhD project on Exploring Childhood Obesity through Social Networks

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We aim to apply multi method approaches to deliver a comprehensive and longitudinal understanding of the complexity of Australia’s obesity trends among children and adolescents by identifying the social drivers of childhood obesity and related weight issues. With a focus on attitudinal and culturally informed factors, and the cross-cutting influence of social networks, the research will highlight opportunities for education, health promotion and social policy to affect obesity prevention strategies and outcomes. The major research question is - “How are childhood obesity and body image interrelated with ethnicity, socio-economic status and social networks and how are these issues understood among various groups and networks of students and their families?” During the past three decades, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents has increased rapidly throughout the world (Bundred et al. 2001; WHO 2000; Wang & Lobstein, 2006). In Australia, the rise in child and adolescent overweight and obesity began in the 1980s and continued to increase in the 1990s. Recent patterns indicate that childhood overweight and obesity remain at a high prevalence of 25 percent. More importantly, recent evidence from national studies of schools around Australia (O’Dea, 2008) suggests that ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic status (SES) appear to be significant variables in the patterns of childhood obesity (O’Dea & Dibley, 2009; O’Dea & Dibley, 2010). Further, body image issues are also known to interrelate with weight status among children and adolescents, but the interplay between body image, weight status and socio-cultural issues in Australia are very poorly understood.


Professor Liaquat Hossain

Research Location

Civil Engineering

Program Type



The major goals of the project are to: 1. Investigate the socio-cultural, socio-economic status, social network, geographic and neighbourhood factors associated with child and adolescent obesity and body image in a national sample of children and adolescents; 2. Produce a detailed 12 year time series analysis of data from 2000, 2006 and 2012 to examine cross sectional change and associated factors in childhood obesity and body image; and, 3. Examine knowledge, beliefs and attitudes towards obesity, weight, shape, food, eating, body image and physical activity among various identified social and cultural sub-groups of young Australians and their families and assess if these factors have changed since 2000 and 2006.

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childhood obesity, social networks, adolescent obesity, Body Image, physical activity, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1350

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