An assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences has received a grant to study the relationship between weight and psychological health in young children.
Dr. Shayla Holub’s study will involve 150 children between ages 4 and 6. She is one of 10 applicants to receive research grants totaling about $150,000 from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
“The way we think and feel about our bodies begins forming at a very young age. This study will help identify ways to nurture a positive self-image in very young children, regardless of their size and weight,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez Jr., executive director of the foundation.
More than 30 percent of American children are estimated to be overweight, which has been associated with higher rates of depression, behavior problems, poor body image and low self-esteem. However, few studies have examined the link between psychological health and obesity during early childhood, when attitudes about weight and body size begin to develop.
“I will look at whether young children who experience teasing because of their weight are more at risk for behavior problems, negative self-perceptions and problematic peer relationships,” said Holub, who also works with the University’s Center for Children and Families. “This is important because early intervention might buffer these children from even more problems during middle childhood and adolescence.”
The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.
The one-year grants are capped at $15,000 each, and the foundation received 35 proposals from faculty at 16 colleges and universities in Texas.