Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 978–985 | Cite as

Exploring Mothers’ Influence on Preschoolers’ Physical Activity and Sedentary Time: A Cross Sectional Study

  • Alana M. Maltby
  • Leigh M. Vanderloo
  • Patricia Tucker


Objectives Physical activity patterns can track from childhood into adulthood; therefore, establishing active behaviors early is imperative. Given the multidimensional nature of a mother’s influence on their children, there is a need to utilize more comprehensive measures to assess the relationship between mother and child activity behaviors. Specifically, mothers have been identified as influencing preschoolers’ activity behaviors and are often in control of organizing a family’s opportunities to be active. The purpose of this study was to explore maternal influence on preschoolers’ physical activity and sedentary time. Methods Preschoolers (n = 24) and their mothers (n = 24) wore Actical™ accelerometers for 7 consecutive days (e.g., 5 weekday, 2 weekend days), and mothers completed the adapted Environmental Determinants of Physical Activity in Preschool Children—Parent Survey. Direct entry regression analyses were conducted to explore maternal influence (e.g., role modeling through mothers’ activity levels, maternal support, and enjoyment of being active) on preschoolers’ activity levels. Results Maternal support was found to be a significant predictor of preschoolers’ light and moderate–vigorous physical activity, and sedentary time (p < .05); accounting for 37.3–46.7% of the variation. Conclusions for Practice Mothers supportive behaviors influenced preschoolers’ physical activity and sedentary time. Future research is needed to investigate facilitators/barriers that mothers with preschoolers encounter with regard to providing support to be active or modeling active behaviors themselves.


Physical activity Sedentary time Preschooler Maternal influence Accelerometry Health promotion 



The authors would like to acknowledge participating mothers and preschoolers for their involvement in this study. Special thanks to Dr. Andrew Johnson for his assistance with data analysis. LM Vanderloo was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Research Award.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Schulich Medicine & DentistryUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.School of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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