Influences of Parents and School on Sports Participation and Fitness Levels of Deaf Children

By Ellis, M. Kathleen | Palaestra, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview
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Influences of Parents and School on Sports Participation and Fitness Levels of Deaf Children


Ellis, M. Kathleen, Palaestra


Influences of parents and schools on physical fitness and activity levels of children have been well documented in the research literature, and their importance supported by national healthy lifestyle goals as outlined in Healthy People 2000 (Public Health Service, 1990). Two goals of Healthy People 2000 involved appropriate physical activity participation and maintenance of health-related physical fitness levels. Health-related physical fitness has been defined as an individual's ability to function physiologically on a daily basis without undue fatigue and consists of body composition, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, and muscular strength and endurance, all affected by regular physical activity participation (Siedentop, 1998; Wilmore & Costill, 1994).

There is a strong indication that parental involvement in physical activities and encouragement of similar behaviors increase chances that a child will become involved, as well (Anderssen & Wold, 1992; Biddle & Goudas, 1996; Dempsey, Kimiecik, & Horn, 1993; Freedson & Evenson, 1991; McCullaugh, et al, 1993; McMurray, et al, 1993; Moore, et al, 1991). Parents play roles in their children's introduction to physical activities, as well as their overall enjoyment of an activity, and length of involvement in the activity. For example, should a child encounter a negative experience within a specific activity, the greater likelihood he/she would shy away from future participation, and vice versa. Parents and other authority figures influence this participation by ensuring their child's participation is enjoyable (Ferguson, et al, 1989; Stucky-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993; Tappe, Duda, & Menges-Ehmwald, 1989, 1990; Tinsley, et al, 1995).

Schools offer many settings for students to become involved in various activities, including physical activities. These opportunities increase when schools provide strong after school programs, as well as physical education programs introducing and promoting lifelong physical activities (Ernst, et al, 1998; Wright, et al, 2000). However, even with the importance of greater physical activity participation, as indicated by Healthy People 2000, many school systems have decreased the importance placed on regular physical education classes and either reduced or eliminated the programs (Sherman, 2000). This places greater emphasis on after-school and community programs to offer opportunities for children to become and remain involved (Ross, et al, 1985).

Increased opportunities and participation in physical activities encouraged by parental and school influences lead to increase in overall physical fitness levels of students. Such involvement is imperative during a child's school years, as it not only facilitates physical growth and development, but also social and psychological growth (Brown & Brown, 1996; Malina & Bouchard, 1991), important factors for all children. However, throughout the literature, no indication has been made as to what influence parents and schools have on fitness and physical activity levels of deaf children.

It is believed deaf children with deaf parents are more likely to be introduced to Deaf community activities, including Deaf sport and other physical activity modules, than if they have hearing parents who might be less aware of Deaf community offerings (Stewart, 1991). Additionally schools for the deaf create a social milieu conductive to deaf students interacting with one another, and in the process, facilitating social growth (Padden & Humphries, 1988; Mertens, 1989; Stewart, 1991). This leads to greater likelihood of participation in many different activities, physical activities included (Foster, 1989; Stewart, Robinson, & McCarthy, 1991; Vernon & Andrews, 1990). However, unlike with the hearing population, there is no hard evidence to support these postulations related to physical activities and fitness levels of deaf children.

While many schools for the deaf offer extensive extracurricular and after-school programs for their students, no evidence exists as to whether students who reside within these programs have higher outside activity participation and fitness levels than those who are not residents of the school.

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