Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Elmore-Staton, Lori

Committee Member

Oliver, Brittney

Committee Member

Lindsey, Gail

Committee Member

Parker, Julie

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Human Development and Family Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


School of Human Sciences


This dissertation is comprised of two studies, which taken together aim to enhance healthy lifestyle habits of young children. In the first study, early childhood professionals (N = 39) identified their beliefs and values regarding the role of physical activity and sleep in child development, and their role in assisting children with establishing healthy behaviors. Correlational analyses were conducted to examine if early childhood professionals’ beliefs and values were associated with an array of demographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, and ethnicity) and/or the early care professional’s perceived personal health and body mass index. Descriptive analyses revealed that early care professionals believe physical activity and sleep are important contributors to the healthy development of young children, yet place less value on their role in assisting children with establishing healthy habits. Demographic and health variables of the early childhood professional were not associated with their beliefs and values. Using the results from Study 1 to address gaps in professional development on healthy habits in early childhood, Study 2 involved the development, implementation, and evaluation of two, 3-hour professional development trainings each focused on a contributor to the obesity epidemic (i.e., physical activity and sleep). Both trainings included an overview of the state of the science on the topic as it relates to early childhood and the area, recommendations for obesity prevention in the classroom, specific, hands-on examples of the early care professionals’ role (i.e., behavioral and environmental) in establishing healthy habits. Pre- and post-surveys were used to assess the effectiveness of the training on knowledge of physical activity and/or sleep as it relates to early childhood. Additionally, two researchers conducted classroom observations prior to and following (M = 4.5 weeks) the training to assess potential behavior change within the classroom. Paired-samples t tests indicated that early care professionals improved their general knowledge of physical activity and sleep in child development. Results indicated minimal behavioral and environmental changes in the classroom following the professional development.