The School of Human Sciences research is focused on improving the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
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From Seeds to Standards
One in eight U.S. preschoolers is considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One-third of three- and four-year-olds and half of five-year-olds in Mississippi’s Head Start programs are considered obese or overweight, according to the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools. Overweight children have a greater risk of chronic health conditions in adulthood. Healthy eating is one way to help prevent childhood obesity. That’s why Drs. Julie Parker and Lori Elmore-Staton, researchers in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, created a comprehensive obesity prevention program aimed at educating children, teachers, and parents on how gardens can help foster healthy-eating habits. Drs. Parker and Elmore-Staton established a garden at the MSU Child Development and Family Studies Center along with vertical garden structures at the MSU Aiken Village Preschool. By participating in structured curricula centered on the garden, children were immersed in an outdoor-learning environment that went beyond teaching basic gardening skills and covered science, math, art, music, physical education, and literacy. There were also opportunities to further develop social and emotional skills. The fruits of their labor resulted in a comprehensive manual titled, “Watch Us Grow: From Seeds to Standards,” an experiential learning project, which provided a step-by-step guide for early childhood educators interested in starting a school garden as an experiential outdoor learning environment.
Encouraging healthy sleeping routines
Mississippi State researchers initiated a project at a local child-care center to offer research-based strategies for developing healthier families, including ways to develop bedtime routines to ease kids into sleep. Human development and family studies researcher Lori Elmore-Staton and family life specialist Cassandra Kirkland worked with parents in a new program called “Shape Care,” which stands for Sleep Hygiene and Parental Engagement: Children’s Academic Readiness Enhancement. They emphasized the importance of sleep and how it impacts school readiness, physical health, brain development, and general well-being. Since children carry into adulthood many habits formed while they are young, developing proper nighttime routines to get the recommended amount of sleep is vital.
Education Key to Combat Obesity
Overweight and obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S. and worldwide, increasing the threats of associated chronic diseases and disabilities. A MAFES study investigated demographic and lifestyle variables associated with increased body mass index (BMI). Researchers found that several factors were predictive of higher BMI: lower levels of education and physical activity; higher levels of diet soda consumption; greater number of dieting attempts; and likelihood of starting a diet program based on advertising testimonials. This research highlights the need for more education emphasizing the importance of increased healthy behaviors versus the use of diet products and fad diets to improve success of weight-loss efforts.
Single Parents’ Decision Process
Role strain is of particular interest when studying single parents because of their need to serve multiple family roles. MAFES scientists examined the consumer decision process for single parents in the context of grocery shopping. The study found that advertising positively influenced proactive shopping behaviors and had a negative relationship with reactive shopping behaviors. The study provides suggestions to retailers to better meet the needs of single parents.
Financial Woes Challenge Variety of College Students
All college students run a high risk for serious financial problems, and a recent MAFES study indicates that older students are actually less financially secure than younger ones.
The study found that college students’ financial troubles stem from general instability in relationships, living arrangements and religious beliefs.
Researchers surveyed students at Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi. The research team turned up multiple surprises. One surprise was that younger students are less likely to have financial problems than older students.
According to the study, emerging adults who are prone to thrill-seeking behavior and alcohol abuse actually endured fewer financial hurdles than their older counterparts, who represented 40 percent of the participants.
The study found that alcohol consumption, smoking and other forms of risky behavior have little bearing on a student’s financial wisdom. Emerging adults tend to drink more than adults do and to binge drink. But those surveyed had a better financial track record than the older adults in the study.
Students who engaged in sensation-seeking behavior tended to have more financial problems than their calmer counterparts did. The study also found that females were 29 percent more likely to make unwise financial decisions than males were. The research indicated that race bore no correlation to risky financial behavior.