Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Parental Beliefs and Children's Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Parental Beliefs and Children's Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity

Article excerpt

It has been suggested that understanding the role of the family, especially parents, in children's moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) participation is an important undertaking (Sallis, Simons-Morton, et al., 1992). Although it seems logical to assume that parents influence a number of their children's health behaviors, such as dietary habits and MVPA, very little is known about this process (Gochman, 1985). This lack of understanding is highlighted by the fact that intensive family-based health promotion programs have had minimal success in increasing children's or parents' MVPA (Sallis, Simons-Morton, et al., 1992).

One reason for focusing on children's MVPA is its link to long-term health (Powell, Thompson, Caspersen, & Kendrick, 1987). Moderate-to-vigorous physical activities are those likely to enhance children's physical fitness and usually differentiated by estimates of energy expenditure (see Simons-Morton, O'Hara, & Huang, 1994). For instance, riding a bike would be considered MVPA, but whether it is moderate or vigorous would depend on the energy expended (i.e., intensity) during the activity. Both moderate and vigorous physical activity have been shown to be important for long-term health (Blair & Connelly, 1996).

The parental beliefs approach taken in this study is derived from our Family Influence Model (for a more complete description of the model, see Dempsey, Kimiecik, & Horn, 1993; Kimiecik, Horn, & Shurin, 1996). In essence, the model purports that examining parents' beliefs about their children's MVPA forms the core for understanding family influence on children's MVPA. The foundation for our developing model is strongly influenced by Eccles' expectancy-value theoretical framework for studying parental influence on children's activity choices (see Eccles & Harold, 1991) and Ford and Lerner's (1992) developmental systems theory. In a similar approach, Brustad (1993, 1996) has demonstrated the efficacy of Eccles' expectancy-value framework for explaining children's attraction to physical activity. However, more work needs to be conducted to determine the kinds of beliefs parents have relating to their children's MVPA. We don't yet have a very good understanding of the constellation of parental beliefs that are intimately involved in the parent-child MVPA relationship. Thus, the general purpose of the present study was to examine the beliefs parents have about their children's participation in fitness-oriented physical activity and determine whether these beliefs are linked to their children's MVPA participation.

Some research has studied parental influence by examining the relationship between parents' MVPA behavior and their children's physical activity patterns. The results are mixed. Some studies have formal strong correlations between parent-child MVPA patterns (Freedson & Evenson, 1991; Moore et al., 1991), whereas others have found no relationship (Dempsey, et al., 1993; Sallis, Alcaraz, et al., 1992). Even if parental MVPA behavior is linked to their children's MVPA, there is a need to more closely examine the psychosocial underpinnings of this relationship (Kimiecik et al., 1996).

From a theoretical perspective, the parent-child behavioral link is somewhat limited as an explanation parental influence. This role-modeling hypothesis, which assumes that children will perform a specific behavior or task if their parents perform it regularly, has not been supported by research in the academic achievement context. For instance, data from Eccles (Parsons), Adler, and Kaczala (1982) clearly indicate that parents do not influence their children's math achievement attitudes and beliefs through a role-modeling effect. The primary source of influence was due to parental expectancies regarding their children's abilities. Furthermore, both Eccles (Parsons) and colleagues (1982) and Phillips (1987) showed that parents' beliefs about their children's academic abilities were more directly related to their children's perceptions of competence and performance expectancies than were the children's own past performances. …

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