Roles of mothers and fathers in supporting child physical activity: A cross-sectional mixed-methods study

Emma Solomon-Moore, Zoi Toumpakari, Simon Sebire, Janice Thompson, Deborah Lawlor, Russell Jago

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34 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives Examine the extent that parent gender is associated with supporting children's physical activity. Design Cross-sectional mixed-methods study. Setting 47 primary schools located in Bristol (UK). Participants 944 children aged 8-9 years and one of their parents provided quantitative data; 51 parents (20 fathers) were interviewed. Methods Children wore an accelerometer, and mean minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day, counts per minute (CPM) and achievement of national MVPA guidelines were derived. Parents reported who leads in supporting child activity during the week and weekend. Linear and logistic regression examined the association between gender of parent who supports child activity and child physical activity. For the semistructured telephone interviews, inductive and deductive content analyses were used to explore the role of gender in how parents support child activity. Results Parents appeared to have a stronger role in supporting boys to be more active, than girls, and the strongest associations were when they reported that both parents had equal roles in supporting their child. For example, compared with the reference of female/mother support, equal contribution from both parents during the week was associated with boys doing 5.9 (95% CI 1.2 to 10.6) more minutes of MVPA per day and more CPM when both parents support on weekday and weekends (55.1 (14.3 to 95.9) and 52.8 (1.8 to 103.7), respectively). Associations in girls were weaker and sometimes in the opposite direction, but there was no strong statistical evidence for gender interactions. Themes emerged from the qualitative data, specifically; parents proactively supporting physical activity equally, mothers supporting during the week, families getting together at weekends, families doing activities separately due to preferences and parents using activities to bond one-to-one with children. Conclusions Mothers primarily support child activity during the week. Children, possibly more so boys, are more active if both parents share the supporting role.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere019732
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2018


  • children
  • gender
  • mixed-methods
  • parents
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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