Sports Medicine

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 79–97 | Cite as

Parental Correlates of Physical Activity in Children and Early Adolescents

Review Article


This article is intended to unite the existing research on parental influences on children’s physical activity behaviours in order to establish direction for future research and improve existing child physical activity intervention programmes. A comprehensive, 34-study review of parental correlates of child physical activity was conducted and six variables were examined. There were significant correlations found between parental support and child physical activity level. Results for an association between parental and child physical activity levels, however, were mixed. There were not enough studies to draw conclusions about single-parent families, family socioeconomic status and ethnicity. Finally, there were some weak inter- and intra-generational sex correlations, but these results were mostly inconclusive. Possible mechanisms, including parental support, modelling, shared activities, societal differences by generation, minority groups and genetics are discussed, and recommendations are made on translating experimental results into tangible intervention efforts essential for disease prevention through increased physical activity.


Physical Activity Physical Activity Level Parental Support Physical Activity Behaviour Active Parent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Ryan E. Rhodes is supported by a scholar award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and with funds from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge and Development Fund, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


  1. 1.
    Trost SG, Pate RR, Saunders R, et al. A prospective study of the determinants of physical activity in rural fifth-grade children. Prev Med 1997; 26: 257–263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Freedson PS. Electronic motion sensors and heart rate as measures of physical activity in children. J Sch Health 1991; 61 (5): 220–223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Stephens T, Jacobs DR, White CC. A descriptive epidemiology of leisure-time physical activity. Public Health Rep 1985; 100 (2): 147–158PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lucas JW, Schiller JS, Benson V. Summary health statistics for US Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2001. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10 2004; 218: 1–134PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fox K, Rickards L. Sport and leisure: results from the sport and leisure module of the 2002 General Household Survey. London: The Stationary Office, 2004Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    National Health Survey: summary of results, Australia, 2001, cat. no 4363.0 [online]. Available from URL: [Accessed 2004 Aug 14]Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. National Population Health Survey. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 1998/1999Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sallis JF, Patrick K. Physical activity guidelines for adolescents: consensus statement. Pediatr Exerc Sci 1994; 6: 302–314Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Baranowski T, Bouchard C, Bar-Or O, et al. Assessment, prevalence, and cardiovascular benefits of physical activity and fitness in youth. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994; 24 (6 Suppl.): S237–S247Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sallis JF, Simons-Morton BG, Stone EJ, et al. Determinants of physical activity and interventions in youth. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992; 24 (6): S248–257PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sallis JF, Prochaska JJ, Taylor WC. A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000; 32 (5): 963–975PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance summaries, 2004 May 21. MMWR Surveill Summ 2004; 53 (No. SS-2): 1–96Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bandura A. Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice-Hall, 1986Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Welk GJ. The youth physical activity promotion model: a conceptual bridge between theory and practice. Quest 1999; 51: 5–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Taylor WC, Baranowski T, Sallis JF. Family determinants of childhood physical activity: a social-cognitive model. In: Dishman RK, editor. Advances in exercise adherence. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1994: 319–342Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Moore LL, Lombardi DA, White MJ, et al. Influence of parents’ physical activity levels on activity levels of young children. J Pediatr 1991; 118: 215–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Egger M, Smith DS, Altman DG, editors. Systematic reviews in health care: meta-analysis in context. 2nd ed. London: BMJ Books, 2001Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gottlieb NH, Chen MS. Sociocultural correlates of childhood sporting activities: the implications for heart health. Soc Sci Med 1985; 21 (5): 533–539PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Godin G, Shephard RJ, Colantonio A. Children’s perception of parental exercise: influence of sex and age. Percept Mot Skills 1986; 62: 511–516PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Godin G, Shephard RJ. Psychosocial factors influencing intentions to exercise of young students from grades 7 to 9. Res Q Exerc Sport 1986; 57 (1): 41–52Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Perusse L, Leblanc C, Bouchard C. Familial resemblance in lifestyle components: results from the Canada Fitness Survey. Can J Public Health 1988; 79: 201–205PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sallis JF, Patterson TL, Buono MJ, et al. Aggregation of physical activity habits in Mexican-American and Anglo families. J Behav Med 1988; 11 (1): 31–41PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Sallis JF, Patterson TL, McKenzie TL, et al. Family variables and physical activity in preschool children. J Dev Behav Pediatr 1988; 9 (2): 57–61PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Perusse L, Tremblay A, Leblanc C, et al. Genetic and environmental influences on level of habitual physical activity and exercise participation. Am J Epidemiol 1989; 129 (5): 1012–1022PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Poest CA, Williams JR, Witt DD, et al. Physical activity patterns of preschool children. Early Child Res Q 1989; 4: 367–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Freedson PS, Evenson S. Familial aggregation in physical activity. Res Q Exerc Sport 1991; 62 (4): 384–389PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Anderssen N, Wold B. Parental and peer influences on leisure-time physical activity in young adolescents. Res Q Exerc Sport 1992; 63 (4): 341–348PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Sallis JF, Alcaraz JE, McKenzie TL, et al. Parental behavior in relation to physical activity and fitness in 9-year-old children. Am J Dis Child 1992; 146: 1383–1388PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Dempsey JM, Kimiecik JC, Horn TS. Parental influence on children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity participation: an expectancy-value approach. Pediatr Exerc Sci 1993; 5: 151–167Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Sallis JF, Nader PR, Broyles SL, et al. Correlates of physical activity at home in Mexican-American and Anglo-American preschool children. Health Psychol 1993; 12 (5): 390–398PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Stucky-Ropp RC, DiLorenzo TM. Determinants of exercise in children. Prev Med 1993; 22: 880–889PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Zakarian JM, Hovell MF, Hofstetter CR, et al. Correlates of vigorous exercise in a predominantly low SES and minority high school population. Prev Med 1994; 23: 314–321PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Garcia AW, Broda MAN, Frenn M, et al. Gender and developmental differences in exercise beliefs among youth and prediction of their exercise behaviour. J Sch Health 1995; 65 (6): 213–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Biddle S, Goudas M. Analysis of children’s physical activity and its association with adult encouragement and social cognitive variables. J Sch Health 1996; 66 (2): 75–78PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Brustad RJ. Attraction to physical activity in urban schoolchildren: parental socialization and gender influences. Res Q Exerc Sport 1996; 67 (3): 316–323PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Epstein LH, Paluch RA, Coleman KJ, et al. Determinants of physical activity in obese children assessed by accelerometer and self-report. Med Sci Sport Exerc 1996; 28 (9): 1157–1164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hovell MF, Kolody B, Sallis JF, et al. Parent support, physical activity, and correlates of adiposity in nine year olds: an exploratory study. J Health Educ 1996; 27 (2): 126–129Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Yang X, Telama R, Laakso L. Parents’ physical activity, socioeconomic status and education as predictors of physical activity and sport among children and youths: a 12 year follow up study. Int Rev Soc Sport 1996; 31: 273–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Aarnio M, Winter T, Kujala UM, et al. Familial aggregation of leisure-time physical activity: a three generation study. Int J Sports Med 1997; 18: 549–556PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Bungum TJ, Vincent ML. Determinants of physical activity among female adolescents. Am J Prev Med 1997; 13 (2): 115–122PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Pate RR, Trost SG, Felton GM, et al. Correlates of physical activity behaviour in rural youth. Res Q Exerc Sport 1997; 68 (3): 241–248PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    DiLorenzo TM, Stucky-Ropp RC, Vander Wal JS, et al. Determinants of exercise among children II: a longitudinal analysis. Prev Med 1998; 27: 470–477PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Kimiecik JC, Horn TS. Parental beliefs and children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Res Q Exerc Sport 1998; 69 (2): 163–175PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Sallis JF, Alcaraz JE, McKenzie TL, et al. Predictors of change in children’s physical activity over 20 months: variations by gender and level of adiposity. Am J Prev Med 1999; 16 (3): 222–229PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Raudsepp L, Viira R. Influence of parents’ and siblings’ physical activity on activity levels of adolescents. Eur J Physical Educ 2000; 5 (2): 169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Campbell PT, Katzmarzyk PT, Malina RM, et al. Prediction of physical activity and physical work capacity (PWC 150) in young adulthood from childhood and adolescence with consideration of parental measures. Am J Hum Biol 2001; 13: 190–196PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    McGuire MT, Hannan PJ, Neumark-Sztainer D, et al. Parental correlates of physical activity in a racially/ethnically diverse adolescent sample. J Adolesc Health 2002; 30: 253–261PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Trost SG, Sallis JF, Pate RR, et al. Evaluating a model of parental influence on youth physical activity. Am J Prev Med 2003; 25 (4): 277–282PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Davison KK, Cutting TM, Birch LL. Parents’ activity-related parenting practices predict girls’ physical activity. Med Sci Sport Exerc 2003; 35 (9): 1589–1595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Welk GJ, Wood K, Morss G. Parental influences on physical activity in children: an exploration of potential mechanisms. Pediatr Exerc Sci 2003; 15: 19–33Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    US Census Bureau. Current population reports, series P23-205: population profile of the United States, 1999. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2001Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Statistics Canada. 2001 Census of population [online]. Available from URL: [Accessed 2004 Jun 7 ]Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Klesges RC, Eck LH, Hanson CL, et al. Effects of obesity, social interactions, and physical environment on physical activity in preschoolers. Health Psychol 1990; 9 (4): 435–449PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Bandura A. Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behaviour change. Psychol Rev 1977; 84: 191–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Dubowitz H, Newberger CM, Melnicoe LH, et al. The changing American family. Pediatr Clin North Am 1988; 35 (6): 1291–1311PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioural Medicine Laboratory, Faculty of EducationUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations