Associations Between Parenting Factors, Motivation, and Physical Activity in Overweight African American Adolescents

  • Lauren E. Huffman
  • Dawn K. Wilson
  • M. Lee Van Horn
  • Russell R. Pate
Original Article



Positive parenting practices and environmental supports have been linked to physical activity (PA) levels in youth, yet factors associated with positive parenting styles have been understudied in African American adolescents.


This study expands on previous literature by examining associations between motivation, parenting factors associated with Self-Determination Theory’s psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness) including authoritative parenting, autonomy support and emotional and tangible support, and adolescent moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and light PA (LPA).


Participants were African American adolescents (N = 148; M age = 13.6 years; M BMI% = 96.6) and their caregivers (M age = 43.4 years; M BMI = 37.4) enrolled in the Families Improving Together for Weight Loss trial. Parenting factors were measured using self-report surveys, and PA minutes were measured using 7-day accelerometry estimates.


Regression analyses indicated that overall models for MVPA (F(11,134) = 4.35; R 2 = 0.26) and LPA (F(11,134) = 5.84, R 2 = 0.32) were significant. Adolescent motivation for PA (B = 0.58, SE = 0.16) was positively associated with MVPA minutes. Authoritative parenting (B = 15.71, SE = 4.38) and tangible support (B = 8.53, SE = 4.02) were positively associated with adolescent LPA minutes. Unexpectedly, emotional support was negatively associated with both MVPA (B = −0.47, SE = 0.17) and LPA (B = −11.22, SE = 4.79), with follow-up analyses showing this relationship stronger in males.


Findings highlight the importance of adolescent motivation for PA on MVPA and positive parenting styles and tangible supports on adolescent LPA in overweight African American youth. Recommendations for integrating these factors within the context of intervention studies are discussed.


Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity Light physical activity Parenting styles Motivation African American Adolescents Overweight Self-Determination Theory 



This research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD072153) to Dawn K. Wilson, Ph.D., and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (T32GM081740), the University of South Carolina (Advanced Support Program for Integration of Research Excellence-II Grant), to Lauren E. Huffman, M.A..

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren E. Huffman
    • 1
  • Dawn K. Wilson
    • 1
  • M. Lee Van Horn
    • 2
  • Russell R. Pate
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Individual, Family and Community EducationUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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