Parents’ Perceptions of Children’s Physical Activity Compared on Two Electronic Diaries

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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After-school hours provide an opportunity for physical activity (PA). Parental perceptions influence children’s PA. The aims were to: compare parents’ perceptions of children’s PA with objectively measured PA; shed light on PA during after-school hours; and compare two electronic devices for collecting data.


Twenty parent-child dyads participated. Children (5–7 years, mean 6.25 ± 0.64) wore Actical accelerometers; their parents responded to activity diaries on electronic devices. Data were collected twice for 4 consecutive weekday afternoons (15.30–19.00).


While parents perceived their children to be quite active, children were, in fact, largely inactive. Parents’ responses compared with accelerometer data yielded moderate correlations (r = .44, p < .01). Two thirds of parents’ responses were overestimations. Boys were physically more active than girls and had higher PA outdoors than indoors. Girls’ PA remained similar indoors and outdoors but parents did not perceive the similarity. Both electronic devices produced similar results and compliance rates.


Parents consistently over-reported their children’s PA. Findings have implications for initiatives to increase PA. If parents perceive their children as very active, they may lack motivation to promote PA. Parents’ limitations as proxy reporters aside, the similarity of results yielded by the two electronic devices suggests that the choice is a matter of researcher preference.

Lau is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Engelen and Bundy are with the Dept. of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.