The longitudinal association between temperament and physical activity in young children

Prev Med. 2018 Jun;111:342-347. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.11.021. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Objective: To examine the longitudinal association of negative affect and physical activity in a population of preschool children.

Study design: Participants included 763 children (53% male) attending scheduled health supervision visits in their primary care physicians' offices. Data were collected at two time points at mean ages 27 (SD=5.4) and 47 (SD=6.2) months. Negative affect (NA) was measured using the Negative Affectivity (frustration/anger, decreased soothability) domain of the Children's Behavior Questionnaire. Physical Activity (PA) was assessed using a parent-report questionnaire. Multiple regression analyses tested the association between NA and PA, adjusting for child age, sex, z-BMI, PA at Time 1, maternal education, household income, and season, and examined for sex differences in the relationship between NA and PA.

Results: The longitudinal association between NA at Time 1 and PA at Time 2 was moderated by sex (p<0.001). After adjusting for covariates, females with greater NA at Time 1 had decreased PA at Time 2 (p=0.01), whereas males with greater NA at Time 1 had increased PA at Time 2 (p=0.01). Specifically, among females, every 1 unit increase in NA at Time 1 was associated with a 9.9min/day decrease in PA at Time 2 (95% CI: -17.1, -2.8).

Conclusions: NA and PA were associated early in childhood and the effects of NA on PA were gender specific. These findings underscore the importance of longitudinal and gender-specific analyses in mood-obesity research.

Keywords: Depression; Development; Epidemiology; Physical activity; Temperament.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Ontario
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament*