2008 Grant Recipient: Explaining parents’ role in children’s physical activity.

Sean Mullen & Diane Whaley, University of Virginia

The purpose of the study was to explore parents’ possible child selves (PCS; i.e., parents’ hoped-for and feared images of their children in the future), and their association with parents’ beliefs and behaviors regarding physical activity and healthy-eating. Online surveys were distributed to parents of children involved in community-based athletic leagues. Two-hundred seventeen parents (151 mothers, 60 fathers) completed all measures. Factor analyses revealed three hoped-for PCS (Good Health Habits & Nutrition; Physical Activity & Fitness; Positive Appearance) and two feared PCS (Poor Health Habits & Condition; Negative Appearance) factors. Parents with hoped-for children as physically active/fit persons displayed a value-system and supportive parenting style unique to those that focused more on eating habits or physical appearance, and reported their children engaging in more sports and less time in sedentary activities. In conclusion, PCS contributes to the knowledge-base in practically and theoretically meaningful ways.

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