Background: Parents have the potential to substantively influence their child's physical activity. This study identified the parenting practices of US and Canadian parents to encourage or discourage their 5-12 year-old child's physical activity and to examine differences in parenting practices by country, parental sex, age of child, and income.
Methods: The sample consisted of 134 US and Canadian parents (54.5% US; 60.4% female) recruited from a web-based panel by a polling firm. The parents answered open-ended questions about what they and other parents do to encourage or discourage their child to be active. Responses were coded using a scheme previously developed to code items used in the published literature. Coded responses were summarized by domain and dimension with differences in responses by country, parental sex, age of child, or household income assessed with a log-linear analysis.
Results: The 134 parents provided 649 and 397 responses to ways that parents encourage or discourage their child's physical activity, respectively. Over 70% of responses for practices that encourage physical activity were related to structure of the environment, parental encouragement, and co-participation. The most common response was co-participation in activity with the child. Of the practices that discourage physical activity, 67% were related to structure of the environment, lack of parental control, and modeling poor behaviors. The most common response was allowing screen time. There were no differences in response by country, parental sex, child age, or household income.
Conclusions: Parents most often encouraged physical activity through structure and emotional support and discouraged physical activity through lack of structure and control. Understanding how parents influence their child's physical activity may help improve intervention strategies. The current results will inform the development of a physical activity parenting practices instrument.
Keywords: Child; Parenting; Parenting practices; Physical activity; Qualitative.