Understanding factors that influence parenting decisions for outdoor play is necessary to promote physical activity during critical years for adolescent adjustment. This study explored physical and social environmental influences on parenting decisions and rules for their child's outdoor play using semistructured in-depth interviews with parents (n = 30, 29 of whom were mothers) of adolescents. Mothers from low- (n = 16) and high-disadvantage (n = 13) neighborhood environments were recruited to identify environmental factors that resulted in parenting decisions that either promoted or hindered outdoor play and identify differences across neighborhood types. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Mothers limit their child's independent play, as well as the location and time of outdoor play, due to both social and physical aspects of their neighborhood. Seven themes (safety, social norms, sense of control, social cohesion and neighborhood composition, walkability, and access to safe places for activity) were identified as influencers of parenting practices. Mothers in high-disadvantage neighborhoods reported facing greater neighborhood barriers to letting their child play outside without supervision. Physical and social neighborhood factors interact and differ in low- and high-disadvantage neighborhoods to influence parenting practices for adolescent's outdoor play. Community-level interventions should target both physical and social environmental factors and be tailored to the neighborhood and target population, in order to attenuate parental constraints on safe outdoor play and ultimately increase physical activity and facilitate adolescent adjustment among developing youth.
Keywords: adolescent; adolescent wellbeing; neighborhood; outdoor play; parenting; physical activity.