Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 234–244 | Cite as

Predictors of parent–child relationships that support physical activity in Mexican–American families

  • Kayla de la Haye
  • Hendrik Dirk de Heer
  • Anna V. Wilkinson
  • Laura M. Koehly


Family-based physical activity (PA) interventions would benefit from research that identifies how to build support for PA among family members. This study examined the extent to which relationships of encouragement to do PA, and co-engagement in PA, exist among Mexican–American parents and children, and sought to identify individual, relational, and household factors associated with these dimensions of support. Participants were 224 Mexican-origin adults, with at least one child aged 5–20 years, participating in a larger study conducted between 2008 and 2010. In baseline surveys, adult participants enumerated the names and attributes of their family and kin; this study focuses on 455 parent–child dyads, nested in 118 households. Parental encouragement of PA in their children was found in about half of dyads, and in 20 % of dyads children encouraged parents. Encouragement relationships were highly reciprocal. Reciprocal parent–child encouragement was also positively associated with co-participation in PA; the latter found in just 17 % of dyads. Results indicated that relational, individual, and socio-cultural attributes were associated with PA support among parents and children, and provide insights into how these relationships might be fostered within Mexican–American families.


Physical activity Parent Child Mexican–American Support 



This study was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH (Z01HG200335 to LMK). We thank Dr. ML Bondy and the Mexican American Cohort Study (MACS) staff for their work with participant recruitment and follow-up while the data collection for this project was on-going. The MACS is funded pursuant to the Comprehensive Tobacco Settlement of 1998 and appropriated by the 76th legislature to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, by the Caroline W. Law Fund for Cancer Prevention, and the Dan Duncan Family Institute for Risk Assessment and Cancer Prevention. AVW is funded by the National Cancer Institute (CA126988). In addition, we thank the Risk Assessment for Mexican Americans research team for their hard work collecting the data for this project. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Health and Human Services or the U.S. Government. We thank two anonymous reviewers for providing feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript.


  1. Abraído-Lanza, A. F., Chao, M. T., & Flórez, K. R. (2005). Do healthy behaviors decline with greater acculturation?: Implications for the Latino mortality paradox. Social Science and Medicine, 61, 1243–1255. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.01.016 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Afifi, T. D., Hutchinson, S., & Krouse, S. (2006). Toward a theoretical model of communal coping in postdivorce families and other naturally occurring groups. Communication Theory, 16, 378–409. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2006.00275.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alderman, B. L., Benham-Deal, T. B., & Jenkins, J. M. (2010). Change in parental influence on children’s physical activity over time. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 7, 60–67. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.02.025 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashida, S., Hadley, D. W., Goergen, A. F., Skapinsky, K. F., Devlin, H. C., & Koehly, L. M. (2011). The importance of older family members in providing social resources and promoting cancer screening in families with a hereditary cancer syndrome. The Gerontologist, 51, 833–842. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnr049 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ashida, S., Wilkinson, A. V., & Koehly, L. M. (2010). Motivation for health screening: Evaluation of social influence among Mexican-American adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 38, 396–402. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.12.028 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ashida, S., Wilkinson, A. V., & Koehly, L. M. (2012). Social influence and motivation to change health behaviors among Mexican-origin adults: Implications for diet and physical activity. American Journal of Health Promotion, 26, 176–179. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.100107-QUAN-2 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Bauer, K. W., Laska, M. N., Fulkerson, J. A., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2011). Longitudinal and secular trends in parental encouragement for healthy eating, physical activity, and dieting throughout the adolescent years. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49, 306–311. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.12.023 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beets, M. W., Cardinal, B. J., & Alderman, B. L. (2010). Parental social support and the physical activity-related behaviors of youth: A review. Health Education & Behavior, 37, 621–644. doi: 10.1177/1090198110363884 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blair, S. N., & Morris, J. N. (2009). Healthy hearts—and the universal benefits of being physically active: Physical activity and health. Annals of Epidemiology, 19, 253–256. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.01.019 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brownson, R. C., Boehmer, T. K., & Luke, D. A. (2005). Declining rates of physical activity in the United States: What are the contributors? Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 421–443. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144437 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American Psychologist, 59, 676–684. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.59.8.676 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, S., & McKay, G. (1984). Social support, stress and the buffering hypothesis: A theoretical analysis. In A. Baum, S. E. Taylor, & J. E. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of psychology and health (pp. 253–267). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Cruz, R. A., Wilkinson, A. V., Bondy, M. L., & Koehly, L. M. (2012). Psychometric evaluation of the demographic index of cultural exposure (DICE) in two Mexican-origin community samples. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 34, 404–420. doi: 10.1177/0739986312449426 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edwardson, C. L., & Gorely, T. (2010). Parental influences on different types and intensities of physical activity in youth: A systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 522–535. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2010.05.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ersig, A. L., Williams, J. K., Hadley, D. W., & Koehly, L. M. (2009). Communication, encouragement, and cancer screening in families with and without mutations for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer: A pilot study. Genetics in Medicine, 11, 728–734. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181b3f42d PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Ogden, C. L., & Curtin, L. R. (2010). Prevalence and trends in obesity among US Adults, 1999–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303, 235–241. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.2014 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freeman, L. C., Romney, A. K., & Freeman, S. C. (1987). Cognitive structure and informant accuracy. American Anthropologist, 89, 310–325. doi: 10.1525/aa.1987.89.2.02a00020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hallal, P. C., Victora, C. G., Azevedo, M. R., & Wells, J. C. K. (2006). Adolescent physical activity and health. Sports Medicine, 36, 1019–1030.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kelder, S. H., Perry, C. L., Klepp, K. I., & Lytle, L. L. (1994). Longitudinal tracking of adolescent smoking, physical activity, and food choice behaviors. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 1121–1126. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.7.1121 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Koehly, L. M., Ashida, S., Goergen, A. F., Skapinsky, K. F., Hadley, D. W., & Wilkinson, A. V. (2011). Willingness of Mexican-American adults to share family health history with healthcare providers. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40, 633–636. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.02.013 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koehly, L. M., & Loscalzo, A. (2009). Adolescent obesity and social networks. Preventing Chronic Disease, 6, 15. Retrieved from
  23. Lara, M., Gamboa, C., Kahramanian, M. I., Morales, L. S., & Hayes Bautista, D. E. (2005). Acculturation and Latino health in the United States: A review of the literature and its sociopolitical context. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 367–397. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144615 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laroche, H. H., Davis, M. M., Forman, J., Palmisano, G., Reisinger, H. S., Tannas, C., et al. (2009). Children’s roles in parents’ diabetes self-management. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37, S251–S261. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.08.003
  25. Lee, S. M., Nihiser, A., Strouse, D., Das, B., Michael, S., & Huhman, M. (2010). Correlates of children and parents being physically active together. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 7, 776–783.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Lyons, R. F., Mickelson, K. D., Sullivan, M. J. L., & Coyne, J. C. (1998). Coping as a communal process. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 579–605. doi: 10.1177/0265407598155001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marsden, P. (2005). Recent developments in network measurement. In P. J. Carrington, J. Scott, & S. Wasserman (Eds.), Models and methods in social network analysis (pp. 8–30). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCarty, C. (2002). Structure in personal networks. Journal of Social Structure, 3. Retrieved from
  29. McCarty, C., Bernard, H. R., Killworth, P. D., Shelley, G. A., & Johnsen, E. C. (1997). Eliciting representative samples of personal networks. Social Networks, 19, 303–323. doi: 10.1016/s0378-8733(96)00302-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., Lamb, M. M., & Flegal, K. M. (2010). Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303, 242–249. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.2012 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ong, K. L., Cheung, B. M. Y., Wong, L. Y. F., Wat, N. M. S., Tan, K. C. B., & Lam, K. S. L. (2008). Prevalence, treatment, and control of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2004. Annals of Epidemiology, 18, 222–229. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2007.10.007 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Park, Y.-W., Zhu, S., Palaniappan, L., Heshka, S., Carnethon, M. R., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2003). The metabolic syndrome: Prevalence and associated risk factor findings in the US population from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163, 427–436. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.4.427 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sallis, J. F., Patterson, T. L., Buono, M. J., Atkins, C. J., & Nader, P. R. (1988). Aggregation of physical activity habits in Mexican-American and Anglo families. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 11, 31–41. doi: 10.1007/bf00846167 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Simonen, R. L., Pérusse, L., Rankinen, T., Rice, T., Rao, D. C., & Bouchard, C. (2002). Familial aggregation of physical activity levels in the Quebec family study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34, 1137–1142. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200207000-00014 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from
  36. United States Census Bureau. (2011). The hispanic population: 2010. Retrieved from
  37. Urban, J. B., Osgood, N. D., & Mabry, P. L. (2011). Developmental systems science: Exploring the application of systems science methods to developmental science questions. Research in Human Development, 8, 1–25. doi: 10(1080/15427609) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Valente, T. W. (2010). Social networks and health. Models, methods, and applications. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Waller, K., Kujala, U. M., Kaprio, J., Koskenvuo, M., & Rantanen, T. (2010). Effect of physical activity on health in twins: A 30-year longitudinal study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42, 658–664. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181bdeea3 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wilkinson, A. V., Spitz, M. R., Strom, S. S., Prokhorov, A. V., Barcenas, C. H., Cao, Y., et al. (2005). Effects of nativity, age at migration, and acculturation on smoking among adult Houston residents of Mexican descent. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 1043–1049. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2004.055319 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149, 269–274.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1–27. doi: 10.1037/h0025848

Copyright information

© RAND Corporation 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kayla de la Haye
    • 1
  • Hendrik Dirk de Heer
    • 2
  • Anna V. Wilkinson
    • 3
  • Laura M. Koehly
    • 4
  1. 1.RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic TrainingNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas School of Public HealthAustinUSA
  4. 4.Social Network Methods Section, Social and Behavioral Research BranchNational Human Genome Research InstituteBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations