Research Study Abstract

The influence of parental modelling on children’s physical activity and screen time: Does it differ by gender?

  • Published on Oct 15, 2016

Background: Parents play an important role in modelling healthy behaviours to their children. This study investigated associations between parent and child physical activity and screen time behaviours across specific domains, including moderating effects by parent and child gender.

Method: The sample comprised 3300 school children and 2933 parents participating in the UP4FUN project (mean ages: child 11.2 ± 0.8 years, mother 40.0 ± 4.9 years, father 43.4 ± 5.8 years; 49% boys, 83% mothers). Data were collected in 2011 in Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Norway. Questionnaires assessed physical activity (sport, outdoor activities, walking and cycling for transport) and screen time (TV/DVD viewing, computer/games console use) in children and parents. Multilevel multivariate regression was applied to assess associations between parent and child physical activity and screen time.

Results: Maternal, but not paternal, participation in sport, outdoor activities and walking for transport were associated with higher participation in these activities in children (P < 0.001). In contrast, both maternal and paternal TV/DVD viewing and computer/games console use were related to higher engagement in these screen-based activities in children (P < 0.01). Furthermore, maternal modelling of outdoor activities was significantly associated with outdoor activities in girls (P < 0.001). In contrast, paternal modelling of TV/DVD viewing and computer/games console were significantly associated with these screen-based behaviours in boys (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Maternal modelling of healthy active behaviours may have a greater influence on children compared to paternal modelling, whereas unhealthy sedentary behaviours seem to be modelled by both parents equally.


European Journal of Public Health