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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between parenting style and adolescent girls’ physical activity

Julie Saunders12*, Clare Hume2, Anna Timperio2 and Jo Salmon2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, 6009

2 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, 3125, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:141  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-141

Published: 3 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Understanding the influences on physical activity is crucial, particularly among important target groups such as adolescent girls. This study describes cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between parenting style and girls’ participation in organized sport, walking/cycling trips and objectively assessed moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

Methods

Data were collected from adolescent girls (n=222) and their parents in 2004 and again in 2006. Parents self-reported their demographic characteristics and parenting style. Girls self-reported their organized sport participation and weekly walking/cycling trips, while MVPA was assessed using accelerometers. Linear regression and interaction analyses were performed. Interactions between socio-demographic factors and parenting style with organized sport, walking/cycling trips and MVPA are presented.

Results

There were cross-sectional associations between authoritative (B=−0.45, p=0.042) and indulgent (B=−0.56, p=0.002) parenting and the number of walking/cycling trips, and authoritarian (B=0.27, p=0.033) parenting and frequency of organized sport. Significant interactions included those between: family status, authoritative parenting and daily (p=0.048) and week day (p=0.013) MVPA; education, indulgent parenting and MVPA on weekend days (p=0.006); and, employment, authoritarian parenting and duration and frequency of organized sport (p=0.004), highlighting the complexity of these relationships. Longitudinal analyses revealed significant decreases in organized sport and MVPA, significant increases in walking/cycling trips and no significant associations between parenting and physical activity.

Conclusion

Parenting styles appear to influence walking and cycling trips among adolescent girls, though not physical activity within other domains. Socio-demographic characteristics interact with the relationships between parenting and physical activity. While these findings can inform the development of family-based interventions to improve child and adolescent health, the direction of the observed associations and the number of associations approaching significance suggest the need to further explore this area.

Keywords:
Parental influences; Family environment; Adolescents’ Physical activity