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John Sirard Works In Progress Talk 10.20.2011

The social factors associated with adolescent physical activity (PA) and screen time are not well understood.  A deeper understanding of peer influences on adolescent PA and screen time behavior is warranted based on the decline in PA that happens during this time period, the lack of consistency in previous research, and the fact that individuals become more autonomous from their parents and rely more heavily on behavioral cues from their peers during adolescence. Social network analysis represents a relatively new approach to studying the social influences on PA, diet, and obesity.  A small number of studies using social network analyses support the social contagion spread of obesity in adolescents but the results, however, are not conclusive and a larger body of evidence is needed to further confirm these findings and understand the mechanisms by which obesity may “spread” from one to another.  The purpose of this line of research is to examine how friends’ PA and screen time behaviors are related to an individual adolescent’s PA and screen time behaviors by using data provided by nominated friends.  Dr. Sirard will discuss current cross-sectional findings from a large, diverse sample of adolescents and ideas for a longitudinal follow-up grant proposal.

Dr. Sirard joined the Curry School of Education in September 2010 with a joint appointment with the Kinesiology program and with Youth-Nex: The U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development.  His focus is on schools and physical activity. John was previously at the University of Minnesota where he pursued his research interests including the assessment of physical activity and the role of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of obesity in children and adolescents. He completed his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology at the University of South Carolina in 2007 following completion of an M.S. in Exercise Physiology at the University of Massachusetts and a B.S. in Marketing at the University of Massachusetts.

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