An Examination of Multilevel Factors That May Explain Gender Differences in Children’s Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $119.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $159.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $227.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $302.00


Girls are less physically active than boys, yet no single study has examined the factors that may explain gender differences in children’s physical activity (PA).


This study was a cross-sectional analysis of data from 116 caregivers and their children aged 5–8 years who participated in the MOVE study. Caregivers reported various factors that may relate to children’s PA (eg, encouragement for child PA and PA equipment at home). Child PA was measured by 7-day accelerometry. Linear regression tested for the variance in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) explained by gender and several variables. Gender and ethnicity interactions were examined.


Caregivers were mostly female (97%), mean age 38 ± 6 years, mean BMI 28 ± 6 (kg/m2). Child’s mean age was 8.1 ± 0.7, 54% were female and 40% were overweight/obese. Girls were less physically active than boys (54.1 ± 19.7 vs. 65.2 ± 28.0 daily minutes of MVPA, respectively). Among girls, more days of PE/week was associated with greater MVPA. Among boys, greater parent support for PA, greater parent modeling for PA, and greater number of PA equipment in the home were associated with greater MVPA.


This study supports that boys and girls have different correlates for MVPA, which may partly explain gender differences in PA.

Crespo is with the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. Corder is with the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom. Marshall is with the Dept of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Norman, Patrick, and Sallis are with the Dept of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California–San Diego, La Jolla, CA. Elder is with the Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA.