Parenting Practices and Children's Physical Activity

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 4:20 PM

Amy M. Hutchens, MS, RN, CNE
College of Nursing, The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Lack of physical activity (PA) has been identified as the 4th leading cause of death globally (WHO, 2014). People who are physically active typically live longer than those who are not (Paffenbarger, Hyde, Wing, & Hsieh, 1986). They also have lower rates of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers (AHA, 2013). Parents have influence over children’s physical activity levels. The level of influence and the nature of the relationship is not well studied. The purpose of this integrative review is to critically analyze the state of science concerning the influence of parenting practices on children’s physical activity levels.

     In the United States 42% of children ages 6-11 obtain the recommended daily levels of 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, and only 8% of youth aged 12-15 year old obtain that amount (National Physical Activity Plan, 2014). It is well known that physical activity helps maintain a healthy body weight (Obarzanek, Schreiber, Crawford, 1994).  It has recently been predicted that by 2030, 13 states could have obesity rates above 60% (Levi, Segal, St. Laurent, Lang, & Rayburn, 2012). It is essential that improvement in physical activity levels be improved to prevent obesity.

     Components of two conceptual frameworks guided this review. Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986) and the Family Ecological Model (FEM) (Davison, Jurkowski, & Lawson, 2012) framed the study based on appropriateness of conceptual fit (Figure 1). Bandura’s (1986) Social Cognitive Theory was chosen as a component of the conceptual framework for this review because of its emphasis on social influence. Criteria set forth by Whittemore and Knafl (2005) guided this review. Criteria includes problem identification, literature search, data reduction, data display, and data comparison. Key concepts were identified, evidence and methodological evidence was evaluated (Whittemore & Knafl). The design of the review also includes principles of cross case analysis described by Miles, Huberman, and Saldana (2014).

            This review covered an 11 year period (2003-2014). The CINAHL, JSTOR, PsycINFO, and PubMed databases were searched in October of 2014 for eligible studies. The search terms consisted of combinations of “parenting practices”, “children”, “physical activity”, “physical” and “activity”. Inclusion criteria for this study were qualitative and quantitative studies published in English language professional journals investigating parenting practices that influence physical activity in children and adolescents. Unpublished studies were not included in the review. Sixty- four studies were identified from the database searches. A total of 10 studies met the inclusion criteria. The majority of the studies (n=7, 70%) were cross sectional, non-experimental, prospective studies. The body of research is limited in experimental designs. There is an inadequate amount of evidence aimed at the prediction and control level.  

     The Activity related Parenting Practices Scale provided a consistent measurement for parenting practices across the studies. Reliability was consistently reported in the quantitative studies with eight out of nine (88.9%) reporting a Cronbach’s alpha for the tools used to measure physical activity related parenting practices. The research could be strengthened by using accelerometers as a measurement of PA. Seven (70%) of the ten studies contained at least one aim to examine the links between parenting practices and children’s physical activity. Two (20%) of the studies, the qualitative ones, aimed to describe parent’s perceptions of practices impacting children’s physical activity levels. Six of the studies (60%) measured parental role modeling of PA as a parenting practice influencing children’s PA. Four (40%) of the studies found significant associations between parental role modeling of PA and children’s physical levels. Both of the qualitative studies evaluated identified parental role modeling of PA as important in promoting children’s physical activity (DeLepeleere et al., 2013; O’Connor et al., 2013). The results of the current review support parental role modeling of physical activity as influencing children’s physical activity levels. The science widely involves the use of logistic support and sedentary behaviors as a concepts involved in parenting practices influencing children’s PA. Monitoring children’s PA is not widely utilized in the literature as a definition of parenting practices influencing children’s PA.

     Missing elements in this body of literature are original studies as opposed to cross sectional studies aimed at investigating the influence of parenting practices on children’s physical activity. The majority of the studies in this review were cross sectional, non-experimental prospective studies. This means that the original design was not primarily intended to examine parenting practices influencing children’s PA. The science would be expanded if an original study was conducted to examine the influences between parenting practices and children’s PA.