This study aimed to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between socioeconomic position (SEP) and physical activity and sedentary behaviors among children and adolescents.
Maternal education was reported by parents of 184 children 5 to 6 years old and 358 children 10 to 12 years old in 2001. In 2001 and 2004, physical activity was assessed by accelerometry. Older children self-reported and parents of younger children proxy-reported physical activity and TV-viewing behaviors. Linear regression was used to predict physical activity and sedentary behaviors, and changes in these behaviors, from maternal education.
Among all children, accelerometer-determined and self- or parent-reported moderate and vigorous physical activity declined over 3 years. Girls of higher SEP demonstrated greater decreases in TV-viewing behaviors than those of low SEP. In general, no prospective associations were evident between SEP and objectively assessed physical activity. A small number of prospective associations were noted between SEP and self-reported physical activity, but these were generally weak and inconsistent in direction.
This study did not find strong evidence that maternal education was cross-sectionally or longitudinally predictive of children’s physical activity or sedentary behaviors. Given the well-documented inverse relationship of SEP with physical activity levels in adult samples, the findings suggest that such disparities might emerge after adolescence.
The authors are with the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood VIC 3125, Australia.