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.
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