Examining the Relationship Between Parental Stress and Girls’ and Boys’ Physical Activity Among Racially/Ethnically Diverse and Immigrant/Refugee Populations

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 University of Minnesota Medical School
  • | 2 UnitedHealthcare Community & State
  • | 3 University of Minnesota
  • | 4 University of Georgia
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Given the high prevalence of overweight/obesity and the low prevalence of engaging in physical activity in children, it is important to identify barriers that impede child physical activity. One potential barrier is parental stress. The current study examined the association between parental stress levels and girls’ and boys’ moderate to vigorous physical activity. Children aged 5–7 years and their families (n = 150) from 6 racial/ethnic groups (n = 25 each Black, Hispanic, Hmong, Native American, Somali, and White families) were recruited for the Family Matters mixed-methods study in 2015 through primary care clinics in Minneapolis and St Paul, MN. Two in-home visits were carried out with families 10 days apart for data collection, with an 8-day observational period in between when children wore accelerometers. Higher parental stress levels were associated with fewer minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity in girls (P < .05) compared with boys. On average, girls with a parent reporting a stress rating of 10 engaged in 24 minutes less of physical activity per day than girls with a parent with a stress rating of 1. The results suggest that parental stress may reduce girls’ engagement in physical activity. The implications of these results include targeting parental stress and coping skills in future physical activity interventions. In addition, when addressing child physical activity in health care visits with parents and daughters, providers may want to focus their anticipatory guidance on parental stress and coping skills in addition to providing resources to help parents manage stress.

Berge, Trofholz, and Brito are with the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN, USA. Cheatom is with the UnitedHealthcare Community & State, Atlanta, GA, USA. Fertig is with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA. Tate is with the School of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA. Shippee is with the School of Public Health, Division of Health Policy and Management, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Berge (jberge@umn.edu) is corresponding author.
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