The roles of mothers and fathers in supporting child physical activity: a cross-sectional mixed-methods study

Emma Solomon-Moore, Zoi Toumpakari, Simon Sebire, Janice Thompson, Debbie Lawlor, Russ Jago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
212 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Objectives: Examine the extent that parent gender is associated with supporting children’s physical activity.

Design: Cross-sectional mixed-methods study.

Setting: 47 primary schools located in Bristol (UK).

Participants: 944 children aged 8–9 years and one of their parents provided quantitative data; 51 parents (20 fathers) were interviewed.

Methods: Children wore an accelerometer, and mean minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day, counts per minute (CPM) and achievement of national MVPA guidelines were derived. Parents reported who leads in supporting child activity during the week and weekend. Linear and logistic regression examined the association between gender of parent who supports child activity and child physical activity. For the semistructured telephone interviews, inductive and deductive content analyses were used to explore the role of gender in how parents support child activity.

Results: Parents appeared to have a stronger role in supporting boys to be more active, than girls, and the strongest associations were when they reported that both parents had equal roles in supporting their child. For example, compared with the reference of female/mother support, equal contribution from both parents during the week was associated with boys doing 5.9 (95% CI 1.2 to 10.6) more minutes of MVPA per day and more CPM when both parents support on weekday and weekends (55.1 (14.3 to 95.9) and 52.8 (1.8 to 103.7), respectively). Associations in girls were weaker and sometimes in the opposite direction, but there was no strong statistical evidence for gender interactions. Themes emerged from the qualitative data, specifically; parents proactively supporting physical activity equally, mothers supporting during the week, families getting together at weekends, families doing activities separately due to preferences and parents using activities to bond one-to-one with children.

Conclusions: Mothers primarily support child activity during the week. Children, possibly more so boys, are more active if both parents share the supporting role.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere019732
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2018

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