Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Sterrett-Hong, Emma

Committee Member

Archuleta, Adrian

Committee Member

Gattis, Maurice

Committee Member

Hines-Martin, Vicki

Committee Member

Barnhart, Sheila

Author's Keywords

obesity; social environment; low income women; obesogenic; resilience


Over two-thirds of the United States population have overweight or obese (OW/OB) weight statuses due in large part to an obesogenic environment that encourages unhealthful weight related behaviors. The obesogenic environment appears to place a larger burden on women with low incomes as they experience OW/OB disproportionately compared to other groups. Studies seeking to understand the impact of the obesogenic environment on this population have been deficit focused, largely examining environmental risk factors for OW/OB and ignoring protective factors against it. Most women with low incomes do not have an obese weight status and some women who have OW/OB statuses have successfully engaged in healthful behaviors to lose weight, despite sharing the same social environment. The central aim of this study was to understand how women with low incomes navigate risk factors for OW/OB within their social environment. Research questions included: 1) How do women with low incomes manage to engage in healthful eating in an environment with limited access to healthful foods? 2) How do women with low income manage to engage in consistent physical activity in an environment with limited opportunities for physical activity? 3) How do women with children present in the home manage to engage in healthful eating and consistent physical activity in an environment with limited access to healthful foods and physical activity opportunities compared to women with low incomes who have no children present? 4) How do women with low incomes feel about their weight? To answer these questions, a narrative approach to qualitative inquiry was used to capture the lived experiences of women with low incomes with regard to managing socioenvironmental risk factors for OW/OB. Guided by a Social Ecological Model and Resilience Theory, study methods included in-depth interviews of 14 women with low incomes. Participants in this study demonstrated the ability to strategically maneuver around risk factors for OW/OB to engage in healthful behaviors. Study results highlight the complex nature of risk and protective factors and how the interplay of the various levels of the social environment create both risk and protective factors for women with low incomes for managing their weight.

Included in

Social Work Commons