Journal of Public Health

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 77–88 | Cite as

Exploring cross-generational physical activity: who are the gate-keepers?

  • K. FreireEmail author
  • J. Coyle
  • R. Pope
Original Article



Little is known about how parents and children perform physical activity together. Parents are described as gate-keepers of children’s physical activity. We explored gate-keeping in cross-generational physical activity from child, parent, and family perspectives.


A qualitative methodology was employed. Children and parents took part in semi-structured focus groups, family unit interviews, and individual interviews. Data was analysed thematically.


The starting of cross-generational physical activity involved co-construction. Participants were found to instigate and respond to invitations from their physical activity partners. Child participants were found to employ several strategies to influence their parents and open-the-gate on physical activity. In contrast, stopping cross-generational physical activity only required one participant to stop the physical activity for the physical activity to cease, and child participants volunteered no strategies to influence their parents during the stopping of cross-generational physical activity.


Children of this age group were not passive recipients of parental gate-keeping in cross-generational physical activity. Cross-generational recreation, sport, and exercise was co-constructed by interplay between the child and parent. Physical activity health promotion policy and practice should recognise and promote the roles that both children and parents plays in the instigation of, and engagement in cross-generational physical activity.


Cross-generational physical activity Child Parent Ecological model Qualitative research Gate-keeping 



The authors wish to thank all the participants for sharing their experiences, the NSW Department of Education for permitting their schools to engage with the study, and each of the schools, both public and independent, for their engagement with the research.


the authors declare that no funding or grants were obtained for the study. The study was part of the corresponding author’s PhD program of research, which was funded by a scholarship from the university that the author is associated with.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Charles Sturt UniversityThurgoonaAustralia
  2. 2.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.School of Community HealthCharles Sturt UniversityThurgoonaAustralia

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