Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology & Public Health Education

First Advisor

Tanis Walch


Background: Childhood obesity affects approximately 17% of U.S. children and teens. Children who are overweight or obese are at risk of developing psychosocial problems and cardiovascular risk factors. It is recommended that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days per week, however, children are not meeting these recommendations.

Purpose: To our knowledge, there has not been an observed controlled study examining parent practices and children’s physical activity. Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to observe parenting practices and to examine the relationship with children’s physical activity. The secondary purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between parent weight status and physical activity with children’s weight status and physical activity.

Method: Participants included parent and child dyads (n=40) with children ranging from 8-13 years old. Both parent and child’s height and weight were measured and BMI was calculated using age, height, weight and gender (children) and height and weight (parents). Both parent and child participated in activities for 30 minutes in the same laboratory setting. Observations were made every 30 seconds; observing for 20 seconds and recording for 10 seconds using a modified SOFIT observation form. Observations assessed parent’s communication to include encouragement and discouragement of physical activity and sedentary activity. Paired t-tests were used to analyze the data and SPSS 21 was used.

Results: Child participants had a mean age of 10.3 years (SD= 1.6), 23 were male (57.5%), 27 were white (67.5%), 17 were eligible for free or reduced lunch (42.5%) and 29 were normal weight (72.5%) Parent participants had a mean age of 37.3 years, 4 were male (10%), 21 reported college as the highest level of education completed (52.5%), and 8 were normal weight (20%). Overall, there was statistical difference with parent communication and the relationship with children’s physical activity and weight status (normal weight/overweight or obese). Overweight children had parents discourage them more to not engage in sedentary activity compared to normal weight children (p≤0.001). Overweight children also had parents verbally discourage them from engaging in sedentary activity more compared to normal weight children (p≤0.001). Parent’s BMI was found to not be significant with both children’s physical activity and children’s weight status (p>0.05).

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that parent communication is related to children’s physical activity and weight status (normal/overweight or obese). Promotion of parental encouragement and discouragement can lead to children engaging in more physical activities allowing them to meet the national physical activity recommendations and reduce obesity. Future studies should continue to examine parent practices and children’s physical activity and look at specific parent gender interactions to see if there is a correlation with physical activity.