Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Kathryn Strother Ratcliff and Dr. Mary Fischer

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Childhood obesity has been a significant health issue in the United States since the 1970s. In an effort to combat this issue, children are encouraged to be physically active and maintain a nutritional diet. Previous sociological literature has analyzed the effects of the family and neighborhood environment in an effort to understand the socioeconomic forces influencing obesity. This study extends this literature by analyzing the effects of how children spend their time in structured, semi-structured, and unstructured afterschool activities. Building upon Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice and concept of cultural capital, I argue that afterschool activities present a particular structured environment in which children apply forms of habitus that has the potential to develop a healthy lifestyle. I find that structured activities, such as art club and dance class reduce students’ risk of obesity, while unstructured activities, such as watching television, increase the likelihood of obesity in binary logit models. Nonlinear effects are only present for unstructured afterschool activities. Overall, it is clear that unstructured activities have a much greater effect on the risk of obesity as compared to structured activities. These findings theoretically emphasize the differences between structured and unstructured activities, while stressing the importance of addressing television time to decrease childhood obesity.

Major Advisor

Dr. Simon Cheng