Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 421–430 | Cite as

Parents’ Planning for Physical Activity for their Pre-School Aged Children: The Role of Psycho-Social Mediators and Moderators

  • Kyra Hamiltona
  • Ralf Schwarzer
Original Paper


Despite the childhood benefits gained from engaging in adequate physical activity, Australian preschool-aged children are reported to spend little time being physically active. Parental planning is important to engaging preschool-aged children in physical activity. Behavioral barriers, normative support, and self-efficacy have been identified as key determinants of parental decision making. However, the interplay among these factors is not well understood. The aim of this study was to examine the role of these psycho-social variables on parents’ planning and behavior for their preschool-aged children’s physical activity. A survey at two points in time was conducted in 208 Australian parents (n= 139 mothers, M age = 36.43 years, SD = 5.04; n = 69 fathers, M age = 36.33 years, SD = 6.5) of children aged between 2 and 5 years. A conditional process analysis was conducted that integrates mediation and moderation analyses. The results showed that planning and behavioral barriers predicted behavior, with a moderation effect also identified; more planning helped compensate for barriers. Normative support predicted both planning and behavior. In addition, an interaction between normative support and self-efficacy emerged. Parents with high self-efficacy engaged in high levels of planning, independent of normative support. Low self-efficacy with low normative support resulted in the lowest amount of planning; however, in the absence of normative support a high level of self-efficacy could compensate for it. Current findings provide avenues for future research to develop interventions to test the efficacy of these mechanisms in promoting parents’ ability to ensure preschool-aged children are active.


Self-efficacy Normative support Planning Social cognitive theory Exercise Children 



The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. 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. The Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee approved the study. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Author Contributions

K.H. designed and executed the study, assisted with data analyses, and wrote the paper. R.S. analyzed the data, wrote the results section, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Psychology, Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversitySouthportAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Research GroupCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Educational Science and PsychologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Department of Clinical, Health, and Rehabilitation PsychologySWPS University of Social Sciences and HumanitiesWroclawPoland

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