Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Tracey A. Revenson

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


academic achievement, childhood obesity, concentration, executive functioning, internalizing symptoms, socioeconomic status


Improvements in academic achievement have been linked to childhood obesity indices such as greater physical activity (PA) and lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Yet, little is known about the mechanisms through which childhood obesity indices predict academic achievement. The present study tested whether the influence of PA and BMI on academic achievement is mediated by several cognitive and emotional processes that have been shown in past studies to have independent effects: executive functioning, concentration, and internalizing symptoms. This study also tested the antecedent role of SES on indices of childhood obesity and academic achievement. Data from the 1991-2007 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were used to analyze a sample of over 1000 U.S. children from ages 9 to 15. Path model parameters were estimated using Linear Mixed Models. The hypothesized meditational model was supported by childhood obesity indices predicting both reading and math achievement through cognitive processes (executive functioning and concentration) but not emotional processes (internalizing symptoms). Specifically, greater PA led to lower BMI which, in turn, predicted higher executive functioning performance, higher concentration levels, and then improved academic achievement in reading and math from ages 9 to 15. The results of this study may inform the development of school-based interventions and policy approaches to prevent childhood obesity.