We examined the relationship between parents’ perception of neighborhood safety and children’s physical activity and use of recreation facilities in a US nationally representative sample of fifth grade children.
We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten cohort, fifth grade sample (N = 9827). Multivariate logistic and linear regression models were used to examine associations between parents’ perception of neighborhood safety for outside play and number of days children engage in physical activity, as well as children’s use of recreational facilities for physical activity.
Children who used recreational facilities engaged in physical activity on more days of the week compared with children who did not use a facility (3.3 days vs. 3.8 days, P < .0001). Children from neighborhoods perceived as unsafe by parents engaged in almost 1 less day per week in physical activity (β = –.89, P < .0001). Children from neighborhoods perceived as unsafe were less likely to use recreational facilities compared with children from neighborhoods perceived as safe (odds ratio = 0.72, P < .0001). Children from less affluent families across rural and urban areas had half the odds of using recreational facilities compared with children from the wealthiest families living in urban areas.
Parents’ perception of neighborhood safety for outside play can deter or promote children’s physical activity and use of recreational facilities. Children from less affluent families are less likely to use facilities than children from wealthy families, regardless of place of residence.