Parental Influence on the Physical Activity Behavior of School-Age Children in a Socio-Economically Diverse Community




Holt, Richard P

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The intent of this study was to evaluate the relationships among selected factors of parental influence and the physical activity behavior of children ages 8-11 in a socio-economically diverse setting. The Youth Physical Activity Promotion Model (YPAP) (Welk, 1999) served as the theoretical framework for this study. Many concerns have been raised about the academic performance, self-esteem, self-image, and physical fitness (including levels of diabetes, obesity and other diseases) among youth. While a variety of factors contribute to trends in decreasing academic test scores, increased behavioral issues and an increase in childhood health related issues, it is recognized that decreased levels of physical activity may play a significant role. A cross-sectional study was conducted of 136 children (aged 8-11) attending an elementary school in northern Virginia with a majority-minority student population. Students were administered a survey to assess level of physical activity, attraction to physical activity, perceived athletic competence and parental influence (i.e., encouragement, involvement, facilitation and role modeling). Parent feedback was collected during a parent focus group. Analyses indicate parental influence has a direct effect on child physical activity behavior, and that perceived athletic competence and attraction to physical activity play indirect roles. The study findings validate the YPAP model for school age children in a socio-economically diverse community. Parents have a strong influence on their children’s physical activity behavior regardless of socio-economic status, safety and the built environment. In this study students had a high level of physical activity and participated in a number of different activities. Students appear to have benefited from a collaborative effort to increase awareness of the importance of physical activity, and increase the level of physical activity behavior in the community. The effort involved the school administration, recreation departments, physical education teachers, city government, local non-profit organizations, and parent volunteers coming together to overcome obstacles (e.g., built environment, parental safety concerns).



Parental influence, Physical activity, Perceived competence, Attraction to physical activity, Socio-economically diverse community, School-age children