Understanding the physical and social contexts of children's nonschool sedentary behavior: an ecological momentary assessment study

J Phys Act Health. 2014 Mar;11(3):588-95. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2011-0363. Epub 2013 Mar 14.


Background: Research on children's sedentary behavior has relied on recall-based self-report or accelerometer methods, which do not assess the context of such behavior.

Purpose: This study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to determine where and with whom children's sedentary behavior occurs during their nonschool time.

Methods: Children (N = 120) ages 9-13 years (51% male, 33% Hispanic) wore mobile phones that prompted surveys (20 total) for 4 days. Surveys measured current activity (eg, exercise, watching TV), physical location (eg, home, outdoors), and social company (eg, family, friends).

Results: Children engaged in a greater percentage of leisure-oriented (eg, watching TV) than productive (eg, reading, doing homework) sedentary behavior (70% vs 30%, respectively). Most of children's sedentary activity occurred at home (85%). Children's sedentary activity took place most often with family members (58%). Differences in physical context of sedentary behavior were found for older vs. younger children (P < .05). Type of sedentary behavior differed by gender, racial/ethnic group, and social context (P < .05).

Conclusion: Children may prefer or have greater opportunities to be sedentary in some contexts than others. Research demonstrates the potential for using EMA to capture real-time information about children's sedentary behavior during their nonschool time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • California
  • Cell Phone
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Research Design
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Time Factors