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Jessica L Thomson

Epidemiologist


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Contact Information

USDA ARS
Southeast Area Office
Delta Human Nutrition Research Program
141 Experiment Station Road
Stoneville, MS 38776
Phone: 225-892-3662
Fax: 662-686-5309

Publications

Via ARIS system
Via OrcID
Via Google Scholar

Education

PhD, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2002
MS, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1999
BS, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 1988

Research Positions

2011-present, Research Epidemiologist, USDA ARS, Southeast Area Office, Delta Human Nutrition Research Program, Stoneville MS

2006-2011, Research Epidemiologist, USDA ARS, Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC), Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit, New Orleans LA

2002-2006, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), School of Public Health, New Orleans LA

Research Accomplishments

Effect of Neighborhood Food Outlets on Parent and Adolescent Diets

Exposure to nutrition environments can affect an individual's dietary choices both positively and negatively. However, research assessing relationships between diet and food outlet presence in neighborhoods and between diet and shopping at food outlets is inconsistent. My colleagues and I analyzed data from over 1,500 parent-adolescent dyads who participated in the Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health and Eating Study and determined that

/ARSUserFiles/40006/julian-gruneberg-pI2qgbcbQ1Q-unsplash.jpgPhoto courtesy of Julian Gruneberg via Unsplash.com.

presence of neighborhood farmers markets as well as shopping at farmers markets positively affected parents diets (increased intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Conversely, shopping at convenience stores and eating meals away from home at restaurants adversely affected both parent and adolescent diets (increased intakes of added sugars). Eating scratch cooked meals at home positively affected both parent and adolescent diets (increased intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Thus, regardless of neighborhood nutrition environments, interventions and policies designed to bring about positive changes in familial diets should consider teaching adults and children how to shop for healthful foods at numerous types of food outlets, avoid or reduce frequency of eating away from home, and cook and consume meals at home, particularly those that are scratch cooked.

Patterns of Food Parenting Practices

Parental child feeding practices (e.g., pressure to eat, monitoring, encouragement) affect children's food preferences, intake patterns, self-regulation of food intake, and weight status. Effects of food parenting practices are important because US adolescents typically do not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption and exceed recommendations for consumption for added sugars (e.g., junk food and sugary drinks). My colleagues and I analyzed data from over 1,500 parent-adolescent dyads who participated in the Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health and Eating Study and identified 5 patterns of parenting practices regarding fruits and vegetables and 5 patterns regarding junk food and sugary drinks.  

 

 /ARSUserFiles/40006/national-cancer-institute-P6ID8cthfVA-unsplash.jpgPhoto courtesy of the National Cancer Institute via Unsplash.com.

Patterns ranged from use of all 6 parenting practices, use of some practices, to no practice use and parent and adolescent reports were generally in agreement for all but one of the patterns in each food group. Additionally, patterns were associated with parent (sex) and adolescent (age, sex) demographic characteristics, dietary intake, and legitimacy of parental authority (belief that parents have the right to set rules about their children's food intake).  Counseling or intervening with parents to use a mix of structure and autonomy practices, such as modeling, availability, and child involvement, to positively influence their children's and possibly their own dietary intake may prove more efficacious than use of coercive control practices, such as pressure to eat and restriction.

Patterns of Physical Activity and Screen Time Parenting Practices

Parents can influence their children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviors through the practices they use to support, encourage, and promote engagement in physical activity as well as to limit screen. Effects of physical activity and screen time parenting practices are important because US adolescents typically do not meet recommendations for physical activity and exceed recommendations for screen time. My colleagues and I analyzed data from over 1,100 parent-adolescent dyads who participated in the Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health and Eating Study and identified 4 patterns of parenting practices regarding physical activity and 5 patterns regarding screen time. For physical activity, patterns ranged from use of all 5 parenting practices, use of some practices, to no practice use and parent and adolescent reports were generally in agreement. Similarly, for screen time, patterns ranged from use of

 /ARSUserFiles/40006/juan-cruz-mountford-AMFWArSckYM-unsplash.jpgPhoto courtesy of Juan Cruz via Unsplash.com.

all 6 parenting practices, use of some practices, to no practice use and parent and adolescent reports were generally in agreement for all but one of the patterns. Additionally, physical activity patterns were associated with adolescent age, and parent and adolescent body mass index, physical activity, and legitimacy of parental authority (belief that parents have the right to set rules about their children's behavior). Screen time patterns were associated with adolescent age, sex, body mass index, and sedentary behaviors and parent and adolescent legitimacy of parental authority. Advocating for parental use of combinations of physical activity and screen time parenting practices, such as modeling and monitoring, may prove more beneficial to adolescent health behaviors than use of pressuring and permissive practices or no practice use.

Service, Leadership & Professional Activities

American Society for Nutrition, Member, 3013-present
American Statistical Association, Member, 2002-present
American Statistical Association SPAIG Committee, Appointed Member 2009-2014
Mathematical Association of America, Member, 2003-2004
American Mathematical Society, Member, 1997-2004

Honors, Awards, Achievement & Recognition

Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist, USDA ARS SRRC, 2011
Spot Award, USDA ARS Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit, 2011
Featured as Up-and-Coming Statistician, AmStat News, Sep 2008
Allen A Coping Excellence in Teaching Award, LSUHSC School of Public Health, 2005