Effects of obesity, social interactions, and physical environment on physical activity in preschoolers

Health Psychol. 1990;9(4):435-49. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.9.4.435.


Examined demographic, environmental, and parent-child interactional correlates of physical activity in a group of 222 preschoolers. Activity levels were assessed with a system that quantified directly observed physical activity in the natural environment. Using regression-modeling procedures, results revealed a significant relationship between (a) child's relative weight, parental weight status, and percentage of time spent outdoors (environment) and (b) children's activity levels. Parental obesity was associated with lower levels of physical activity in children, childhood relative weight was associated with slightly higher levels of physical activity, and more outdoor activity was associated with higher activity levels. Parental participation in children's activities also significantly interacted with levels of parental obesity in predicting activity levels. Those children with a 50% risk for obesity (as defined by both, one, or neither parent being overweight) had small changes in activity across levels of parent-child interaction, whereas those at higher risk for obesity responded with increased activity as parent-child interactions increased. Results are discussed, and the implications of these findings for future intervention efforts are examined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment*