Toward a Better Understanding of the Link Between Parent and Child Physical Activity Levels: The Moderating Role of Parental Encouragement

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Research on adolescent physical activity is mixed regarding the role of parent activity. This study tested parent encouragement, direct modeling, and perceived influence as moderators of objectively-measured (accelerometer) parent and child moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) associations.


Parent-child dyads (n = 423; mean child age = 11.33 yrs.) wore accelerometers for 7 days; parents completed surveys. Hierarchical linear regression models tested moderation using a product of constituent terms interaction.


Parent-reported encouragement moderated the association between parent and child MVPA (β = –.15, P = .01, ΔR2 = .02, P < .01). Among parents with lower MVPA, child MVPA was higher for children receiving high encouragement (mean = 3.06, SE = .17) vs. low (mean = 3.03, SE = .15, P = .02) and moderate encouragement (mean = 3.40, SE = .09) vs. low (P = .04).


Physical activity promotion programs may use parent encouragement as a tool to boost child activity, but must consider other child and parent characteristics that could attenuate effects.

Tate ( is with ChildObesity180, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University. Shah, Jones, Pentz, Liao, and Dunton are with the Dept of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.