How Parents Influence Outdoor Active Play Among 7-12 Year Old Children

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Ferrao, Thomas H.
outdoors , child , health surveys , parental modeling , parental support , motor activity
Physical inactivity is a public health problem and surveillance data indicate remarkably low levels of physical activity amongst children globally. In Canada, only 14% of children between the ages of 5-11 are meeting the guidelines for physical activity. Correspondingly, the time children spend outdoors has decreased in recent decades, which suggests that they engage in less outdoor active play. Outdoor active play refers to unstructured and self-directed physical activity which occurs during leisure time. Little is known about the determinants of outdoor active play, although it is likely that parents influence this behaviour. The purpose of this thesis was to examine how parental encouragement for outdoor physical activity and parental role modeling for physical activity are associated with outdoor active play. An anonymous survey was completed by 514 parents of 7-12 year old children using FluidSurveysTM online survey software. The survey assessed outdoor active play frequency, parental encouragement for outdoor active play, and parental role modeling for physical activity. The survey also included items that assessed child and family demographics, other factors of parental influence (eg, independent mobility, facilitation, involvement), and neighbourhood factors such as perceptions of road safety and crime risk. A key result of this thesis is that parental encouragement for outdoor play was strongly associated with outdoor active play. After adjusting for confounding variables, children who received the most parental encouragement engaged in outdoor active play nearly three times more often than children who received the lowest amount of encouragement (5-6 times per week or more vs. 1-2 times per week or less). Parental role modeling for physical activity was weakly associated with outdoor play after controlling for confounders as there was a 2.3 unit difference in outdoor active play frequency scores across parental modeling quintiles. A parental sex by role modeling interaction was found indicating that only mothers’ role modeling was positively associated with outdoor active play. These findings suggest ways that parents can promote their children’s outdoor active play, particularly by encouraging this behaviour. This work could inform future public health interventions aimed at increasing outdoor active play participation among 7-12 year old children.
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