Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 109 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Lani V Jones

Committee Members

Michelle A Harris, Eunju Lee


Urban youth, Health behavior in adolescence, Body mass index

Subject Categories

Social Work


A significant body of research has established that individuals lacking social support, self-esteem, and coping skills have poor physical health outcomes (House et al., 1998; Thoits, 2011; Uchino, 2009). Youth living in urban communities are at greater risk of poor mental and physical health outcomes due to a lack of access to safe places for physical activity, healthy foods, and limited social ties (Babey et al., 2016; Heller Isner et al., 2017; Thoits, 2011). This study examines the relationship between social-emotional well-being and health behaviors among youth (N=100) ages 11 to 19 in a small urban community. Based on prior research, this study posits that patterns of social-emotional well-being may influence health behaviors such as fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity. Social-emotional well-being is established through measures of perceived stress, coping, sense of mastery, and friends and family support. Health behaviors were examined using valid and reliable screening measures of physical activity and fruit, and vegetable intake developed explicitly for use with youth. Data were collected using a Likert-style questionnaire consisting of valid and reliable measures of social-emotional well-being and health behaviors. Data analysis results indicated that several aspects of social-emotional well-being have statistically significant relationships with physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. These findings support prior research that youth with a greater sense of mastery can manage stressors more effectively. Those with strong support networks are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines. The results of this study may help social work practitioners, and legislators develop programs to enhance interventions aimed at improving youth social-emotional well-being. Intervention(s) seeking to strengthen social-emotional well-being may also increase the youth’s likelihood to meet recommended physical and nutritional guidelines, leading to healthier habits leading into adulthood.

Included in

Social Work Commons