Family Structure as a Predictor of Organized Sports Participation and Sedentary Screen Time in Canadian Youth
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Background: Canadian youth are increasingly likely to grow up in non-traditional families, such as single parent families, stepfamilies, and/or in the shared physical custody of their separated parents. Given that growing up in a non-traditional family is associated with many negative health outcomes, it is of interest to examine how family structure influences upstream health-related behaviours such as physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Objectives: The objectives of this thesis were to examine family structure as a predictor of organized sports participation and screen time (television-viewing, recreational computer use and video game use). A secondary objective was to assess socioeconomic status as a mediator in the relationship between family structure and organized sports participation. Methods: Data were obtained from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of Canadian youth in grades 6-10 (N=26 068). Participants’ family structures were classified as traditional, single parent, or reconstituted based on self-report of the number of parents and parents’ partners living in their primary home. Non-traditional families were further classified based on how often the youth reported visiting a second home. Average daily screen time and current organized sports participation were also assessed via self-report. Logistic regression and bootstrap-based mediation analysis were used to examine the associations of interest. Results: Youth from all single parent and reconstituted families had lower odds of sports participation (OR = 0.48 (95% CI: 0.38-0.61) to 0.78 (95% CI: 0.56-1.08)) compared to their traditional family counterparts, regardless of physical custody arrangements. The relationship was moderately-to-weakly mediated by socioeconomic status (ie: <20% change in effect estimate). Youth from single parent and reconstituted families did not have higher odds of spending more than 2 hours per day using a television, computer or video game device, or of being in the highest quartile of time spent in these behaviours. Conclusions: Youth living in single parent and reconstituted families experience significant disparities in organized sports participation that are partially mediated by their family’s socioeconomic status. Family structure is not, however, a significant predictor of excessive screen time.