Are perceived neighborhood hazards a barrier to physical activity in children?

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Oct;155(10):1143-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.10.1143.


Background: We hypothesized that children's perceptions of more neighborhood hazards would be associated with less physical activity, less aerobic fitness, and a higher body mass index.

Objective: To examine the association between a hazardous neighborhood context and physical activity in children.

Methods: Fourth-grade students (n = 796) of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds completed measures of neighborhood hazards, self-reported physical activity, physical fitness, height, and weight. Parents (n = 518) completed telephone interviews and provided data on their education level and occupation.

Results: As expected, children from families of lower socioeconomic status perceived significantly more neighborhood hazards. Contrary to our hypothesis, the perception of more hazards was significantly associated with more reported physical activity. This finding was not explained by school heterogeneity, alteration of the hazards measure, or differences in socioeconomic status.

Conclusion: To further examine the relationship between neighborhood hazards and physical activity, we suggest that future studies include assessments of sedentary behavior, parental fear of violence, parental regulation of children's leisure activities, and cost and quality of available play areas and organized sports.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • California
  • Child
  • Crime
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Poverty Areas
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Problems*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric