Understanding the Physical and Social Contexts of Children’s Nonschool Sedentary Behavior: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Research on children’s sedentary behavior has relied on recall-based self-report or accelerometer methods, which do not assess the context of such behavior.


This study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to determine where and with whom children’s sedentary behavior occurs during their nonschool time.


Children (N = 120) ages 9–13 years (51% male, 33% Hispanic) wore mobile phones that prompted surveys (20 total) for 4 days. Surveys measured current activity (eg, exercise, watching TV), physical location (eg, home, outdoors), and social company (eg, family, friends).


Children engaged in a greater percentage of leisure-oriented (eg, watching TV) than productive (eg, reading, doing homework) sedentary behavior (70% vs 30%, respectively). Most of children’s sedentary activity occurred at home (85%). Children’s sedentary activity took place most often with family members (58%). Differences in physical context of sedentary behavior were found for older vs. younger children (P < .05). Type of sedentary behavior differed by gender, racial/ethnic group, and social context (P < .05).


Children may prefer or have greater opportunities to be sedentary in some contexts than others. Research demonstrates the potential for using EMA to capture real-time information about children’s sedentary behavior during their nonschool time.

Liao, Pentz, and Dunton are with the Dept of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Intille is with the College of Computer and Information Science and Bouve College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA. Wolch is with the Dept of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley.