Parental Influences on Physical Activity in Children: An Exploration of Potential Mechanisms

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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This study examined the utility of a model to explain parental influence on children’s physical activity. Children (n = 994) from 3 elementary schools completed a survey with scales assessing physical activity, attraction to activity, perceived competence, and perceived parental influence. Self-report data on the physical activity levels of parents (n = 536) were also obtained to test the hypothesis that active parents may provide more encouragement and support for their children. The parental influence scales accounted for 20%, 26%, and 28% of the variance in physical activity, attraction to physical activity, and perceptions of competence, respectively. Correlations between parent and child levels of activity were low, but children of active parents had higher scores on the parental influence measures and psychosocial correlates than inactive parents. This study provides further confirmation of the important influence that parents exert on their child’s physical activity behavior.

G.J. Welk is with the Department of Health and Human Performance, Iowa State University, Ames, IA; K. Wood and G. Morss are with The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX.

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