Does Preschool Physical Activity and Electronic Media Use Predict Later Social and Emotional Skills at 6 to 8 Years? A Cohort Study

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Trina Hinkley
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Anna Timperio
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Jo Salmon
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Kylie Hesketh
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Background:

Little is known about the associations of preschoolers’ health behaviors with their later psychosocial wellbeing. This study investigates the association of 3- to 5-year-old children’s physical activity and electronic media use with their later social-emotional skills (6-8 years).

Methods:

Data were collected in 2008–2009 and 2011–2012 for the Healthy Active Preschool and Primary Years (HAPPY) Study in metropolitan Melbourne. Participants were a random subsample (n = 108) of the 567 children at follow-up. Physical activity was objectively measured using ActiGraph GT1M accelerometers; electronic media use (television viewing, sedentary electronic games and active electronic games) was parent proxy-reported. Social and emotional skills were child-reported using the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory—Youth Version. Regression analyses controlled for sex, clustering by center of recruitment, and accelerometer wear time (for physical activity analyses).

Results:

Sedentary electronic games were positively associated with intrapersonal and stress management skills and total emotional quotient. Computer/internet use was inversely associated with interpersonal, and positively associated with stress management, skills.

Conclusions:

Findings suggest that physical activity is not associated with children’s psychosocial health while some types of electronic media use are. Future research should investigate the contexts in which preschoolers participate in these behaviors and potential causal mechanisms of associations.

The authors are with the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

Hinkley (trina.hinkley@deakin.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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