Family Influence on Children’s Physical Activity and Their Use of Kingston Gets Active’s Grade 5 Community Physical Activity Pass
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Background: Canadian children's physical inactivity levels are a public health concern due to their association with chronic diseases and mental health. Families are considered gatekeepers to children’s behaviours, and may influence their physical activity (PA). Purpose: To investigate the influence of family PA factors (i.e. parental PA, parents’ perspectives on family support for PA and family PA rules) on children’s PA levels and their free-play PA facility use. Methods: Kingston Gets Active distributes the Grade 5 Community PA Pass to approximately 2,500 grade 5 students in Kingston and surrounding areas yearly. The pass grants students free access to local pools (n=4), YMCA (n=1), and arenas (n=8) for recreational PA for 10 months. In fall 2006, 292 grade 5 students (54% girls; mean age=9.99, SD=0.35) from 24 elementary schools completed a baseline (BL) questionnaire that assessed demographics, children’s PA levels, PA facility use, and family support for PA. In spring 2007, 272 students completed a follow-up (FU) questionnaire with additional items assessing pass use. In spring 2007, 189 parents (83% mothers) participated in a telephone interview assessing family PA variables and community resources influencing pass and PA facility use. Results: The majority of students (69%) reported using their pass at least once; and although children’s PA did increase (t(230) = -4.91, p < .05), free-play PA facility use did not increase from BL to FU. Multiple hierarchical regression analysis indicated that individual-level variables were better predictors of children’s PA (ΔR2 = .28, F(2, 136) = 26.99, p < .001) and their free-play PA facility use (ΔR2 = .36, F(4, 151) = 21.55, p < .001) as compared to family-level PA variables (children’s PA: ΔR2 = .001, F(3, 133) = 0.089, p =.97; free-play PA facility use: ΔR2 = .007, F(3, 148) = 0.54, p =.65). Parents indicated that other social, organizational, and community factors influenced children’s free-play PA facility use. Conclusions: Children’s PA and free-play PA facility use are influenced by a multitude of interrelated factors within the socio-ecological model. More research should explore associations between family factors and children’s free-play PA facility use.