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Direct and indirect associations between the family physical activity environment and sports participation among 10–12 year-old European children: testing the EnRG framework in the ENERGY project

Anna F Timperio1*, Maartje M van Stralen2, Johannes Brug3, Elling Bere4, Mai JM Chinapaw2, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij5, Nataša Jan6, Lea Maes7, Yannis Manios8, Luis A Moreno9, Jo Salmon1, Saskia J te Velde3 and on behalf of the ENERGY consortium

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN), Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia

2 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and the Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorstraat 7, Amsterdam 1081 BT, the Netherlands

3 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorstraat 7, Amsterdam 1081 BT, the Netherlands

4 Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition, University of Agder, Gimlemoen 25, Kristiansand, Norway

5 Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, Ghent 9000, Belgium

6 Slovenian Heart Foundation, Dunajska 65, Ljubljana 1000, Slovenia

7 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, Ghent, B-9000, Belgium

8 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, 70, El Venizelou Ave, Athens, Kallithea 176 71, Greece

9 GENUD (Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development) Research Group. E.U. Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Zaragoza C/Domingo Miral s/n, Zaragoza 50009, Spain

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-15

Published: 3 February 2013



Sport participation makes an important contribution to children’s overall physical activity. Understanding influences on sports participation is important and the family environment is considered key, however few studies have explored the mechanisms by which the family environment influences children’s sport participation. The purpose of this study was to examine whether attitude, perceived behavioural control, health belief and enjoyment mediate associations between the family environment and 10–12 year-old children’s sports participation.


Children aged 10–12 years ( = 7234) and one of their parents (n = 6002) were recruited from 175 schools in seven European countries in 2010. Children self-reported their weekly duration of sports participation, physical activity equipment items at home and the four potential mediator variables. Parents responded to items on financial, logistic and emotional support, reinforcement, modelling and co-participation in physical activity. Cross-sectional single and multiple mediation analyses were performed for 4952 children with complete data using multi-level regression analyses.


Availability of equipment (OR = 1.16), financial (OR = 1.53), logistic (OR = 1.47) and emotional (OR = 1.51) support, and parental modelling (OR = 1.07) were positively associated with participation in ≥ 30mins/wk of sport. Attitude, beliefs, perceived behavioural control and enjoyment mediated and explained between 21-34% of these associations. Perceived behavioural control contributed the most to the mediated effect for each aspect of the family environment.


Both direct (unmediated) and indirect (mediated) associations were found between most family environment variables and children’s sports participation. Thus, family-based physical activity interventions that focus on enhancing the family environment to support children’s sport participation are warranted.

Sport; Physical activity; Children; Family; Home; Determinants; Mediation; Cognitions