Are parents’ motivations to exercise and intention to engage in regular family-based activity associated with both adult and child physical activity?

Emma Solomon-Moore, Simon Sebire, Janice Thompson, Jez Zahra, Debbie Lawlor, Russ Jago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Background/Aim: To examine the associations between parents’ motivation to exercise andintention to engage in family-based activity with their own and their child’s physical activity.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from 1,067 parent-child pairs (76.1% mother-child); childrenwere aged 5-6 years. Parents reported their exercise motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation,identified regulation, introjected regulation, external regulation & amotivation) as describedin self-determination theory and their intention to engage in family-based activity. Parents’and children’s mean minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) and mean counts per minute were derived from ActiGraph accelerometers worn for 3 to 5 days (including a mixture of week days and weekend days). Multivariable linear regressionmodels, adjusted for parent sex, number of children, indices of multiple deprivation, andclustering of children in schools were used to examine associations (total of 24 associationstested).

Results: In fully-adjusted models, each unit increase in identified regulation was associatedwith a 6.08 (95% CI: 3.27 to 8.89, p<0.001) minute-per-day increase in parents’ MVPA.Parents’ external regulation was associated with children performing 2.93 (95% CI: -5.83 to -0.03, p=0.05) fewer minutes of MVPA per day and a 29.3 (95% CI: -53.8 to -4.7, p=0.02)accelerometer count-per-minute reduction. There was no evidence of association for the other 21 associations tested.

Conclusions: Future family-based physical activity interventions may benefit from helpingparents identify personal value in exercise while avoiding the use of external control orcoercion to motivate behaviour
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000137
Number of pages24
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date12 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Acceptance received 15/06/2016


  • Physical activity
  • family
  • parents
  • motivations
  • intentions

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  • Projects

    MRC UoB UNITE Unit - Programme 5

    Lawlor, D. A. & Lawlor, D. A.


    Project: Research

    NIHR Senior Investigator

    Lawlor, D. A.


    Project: Research


    Jago, R., Lawlor, D. A., Pool, L. H., Sebire, S. J., Thompson, J. L., Solomon-Moore, E. L., Macdonald-Wallis, C. M., Collison, L. G. & Salway, R. E.


    Project: Research, Parent

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