"He's probably more Mr. sport than me"--a qualitative exploration of mothers' perceptions of fathers' role in their children's physical activity

BMC Pediatr. 2015 Aug 26;15:101. doi: 10.1186/s12887-015-0421-9.


Background: Many children do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. Parents can influence their children's physical activity in a number of ways but little research has focused on the impact of fathers. The current study aimed to explore how mothers perceived fathers to influence children's physical activity.

Methods: Telephone interviews with mothers (n = 50) who took part in a large cross sectional physical activity study were conducted. A strategic sampling method was applied to ensure varying deprivation levels and child physical activity. Interviews were based on children's physical activity and screen viewing behaviours and patterns. A total of 37 interviews included information on fathers and were used for the current study. Deductive content analysis was used to analyse the interviews.

Results: Mothers suggested that fathers are directly involved in their child's physical activity though co-participation, whilst additionally playing an important role in encouraging and facilitating physical activity. The results suggest some variation in how mothers and fathers are involved in children's physical activity behaviours. Father availability seems to play a key role in the amount of physical activity involvement.

Conclusions: Fathers play a key role in children's physical activity choices and behaviours and can influence children in a variety of ways. Parents tend to share in the physical activity related tasks of their children but father availability seems to be a factor in their amount of involvement. Health professionals aiming to improve child physical activity may benefit from developing interventions that target both children and fathers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Perception*
  • Role*
  • Sports*