Purpose: Identification of factors that relate to physical activity behavior in children at higher risk for weight problems--namely, children with obese parents--is key to informing the development of effective interventions to promote physical activity and reduce obesity. The purpose of our study was to examine children's perceptions of parental social support for physical activity and the associations between these perceptions and health-enhancing physical activity behavior. Our specific objectives were to: (a) compare perceptions of parental support in children across gender and weight status; (b) compare perceptions of support across source (mother, father) and type (tangible, intangible) in normal-weight and overweight girls and boys; and (c) examine the associations between perceptions of parental support and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) behavior.
Method: We used data collected from the Quebec Adiposity and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth, an investigation of Caucasian children with at least 1 obese biological parent. We included in the analyses children (n = 560, M(age) = 9.6 years, 55% boys, 41% overweight/obese) with data on parental support assessed using a self-report questionnaire and data on MVPA assessed using accelerometers.
Results: Multivariate analyses of variance indicated that perceptions of support differed by children's gender and weight status. Paired-samples t tests showed that children reported more intangible than tangible support. Regression analyses demonstrated that perceptions of paternal tangible support were positively related to MVPA in normal-weight girls, but only a small amount of variance was explained.
Conclusions: Children's gender and weight status need to be considered when studying parental support for physical activity. Further, type and source of support should be differentiated in future research.