A rebirth of physical activity in parents : applying a theory-based approach

Hamilton, Kyra (2011) A rebirth of physical activity in parents : applying a theory-based approach. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Physical inactivity is a serious concern both nationally and internationally. Despite the numerous benefits of performing regular physical activity, many individuals lead sedentary lifestyles. Of concern, though, is research showing that some population sub-groups are less likely to be active, such as parents of young children. Although there is a vast amount of research dedicated to understanding people.s physical activity-related behaviours, there is a paucity of research examining those factors that influence parental physical activity. More importantly, research applying theoretical models to understand physical activity decision-making among this at-risk population is limited. Given the current obesity epidemic, the decline in physical activity with parenthood, and the many social and health benefits associated with regular physical activity, it is important that adults with young children are sufficiently active. In light of the dearth of research examining parental physical activity and the scant research applying a theory-based approach to gain this understanding, the overarching aim of the current program of research was to adopt a mixed methods approach as well as use sound theoretical frameworks to understand the regular physical activity behaviour of mothers and fathers with young children.

This program of research comprised of three distinct stages: a qualitative stage exploring individual, social, and psychological factors that influence parental regular physical activity (Stage 1); a quantitative stage identifying the important predictors of parental regular physical activity intentions and behaviour using sound theoretical frameworks and testing a single-item measure for assessing parental physical activity behaviour (Stage 2); and a qualitative stage exploring strategies for an intervention program aimed at increasing parental regular physical activity (Stage 3). As a thesis by publication, eight papers report the findings of this program of research; these papers are presented according to the distinct stages of investigation that guided this program of research.

Stage One of the research program comprised a qualitative investigation using a focus group/interview methodology with parents of children younger than 5 years of age (N = 40; n = 21 mothers, n = 19 fathers) (Papers 1, 2, and 3). Drawing broadly on a social constructionist approach (Paper 1), thematic analytic methods revealed parents. understandings of physical activity (e.g., requires effort), patterns of physical activity-related behaviours (e.g., grab it when you can, declining physical activity habits), and how constructions of social role expectations might influence parents. physical activity decision making (e.g., creating an active family culture, guilt and selfishness). Drawing on the belief-based framework of the TPB (Paper 2), thematic content analytic methods revealed parents. commonly held beliefs about the advantages (e.g., improves parenting practices), disadvantages (e.g., interferes with commitments), barriers (e.g., time), and facilitators (e.g., social support) to performing regular physical activity. Parents. normative beliefs about social approval from important others or groups (e.g., spouse/partner) were also identified. Guided by theories of social support, Paper Three identified parents. perceptions about the specific social support dimensions that influence their physical activity decision making. Thematic content analysis identified instrumental (e.g., providing childcare, taking over chores), emotional (e.g., encouragement, companionship), and informational support (e.g., ideas and advice) as being important to the decision-making of parents in relation to their regular physical activity behaviour. The results revealed also that having support for being active is not straightforward (e.g., guilt-related issues inhibited the facilitative nature of social support for physical activity).

Stage Two of the research program comprised a quantitative examination of parents. physical activity intentions and behaviour (Papers 4, 5, 6, and 7). Parents completed an extended TPB questionnaire at Time 1 (N = 580; n = 288 mothers, n = 292 fathers) and self-reported their physical activity at Time 2, 1 week later (N = 458; n = 252 mothers, n = 206 fathers). Paper Four revealed key behavioural (e.g., improving parenting practices), normative (e.g., people I exercise with), and control (e.g., lack of time) beliefs as significant independent predictors of parental physical activity. A test of the TPB augmented to include the constructs of self-determined motivation and planning was assessed in Paper Five. The findings revealed that the effect of self-determined motivation on intention was fully mediated by the TPB variables and the impact of intention on behaviour was partially mediated by the planning variables. Slight differences in the model.s motivational sequence between the sexes were also noted. Paper Six investigated, within a TPB framework, a range of social influences on parents. intentions to be active. For both sexes, attitude, perceived behavioural control, group norms, friend general support, and an active parent identity predicted intentions, with subjective norms and family support further predicting mothers. intentions and descriptive norms further predicting fathers. intentions. Finally, the measurement of parental physical activity was investigated in Paper Seven of Stage Two. The results showed that parents are at risk of low levels of physical activity, with the findings also revealing validation support for a brief single-item physical activity measure.

Stage Three of the research program comprised a qualitative examination of parents. (N = 12; n = 6 mothers, n = 6 fathers) ideas for strategies that may be useful for developing and delivering an intervention program aimed at increasing parental physical activity (Paper 8). Parents revealed a range of strategies for what to include in a physical activity intervention designed for parents of young children. For example, parents identified persuasion and information type messages, problem-solving strategies that engage parents in generating a priority list of their lifestyle commitments, and behavioural modification techniques such as goal setting and incentives. Social intervention strategies (e.g., social comparison, counselling) and environmental approaches (e.g., community-based integrative parent/child programs) were also identified as was a skill-based strategy in helping parents generate a flexible life/family plan. Additionally, a range of strategies for how to best deliver a parental physical activity intervention was discussed. Taken as a whole, Paper Eight found that adopting a multifaceted approach in both the design and implementation of a resultant physical activity intervention may be useful in helping to increase parental physical activity.

Overall, this program of research found support for parents as a unique group who hold both similar and distinctive perceptions about regular physical activity to the general adult population. Thus, these findings highlight the importance of targeting intervention strategies for parents of young children. Additionally, the findings suggest that it might also be useful to tailor some messages specifically to each sex. Effective promotion of physical activity in parents of young children is essential given the low rate of activity in this population. Results from this program of research highlight parents as an at-risk group for inactivity and provide an important first step in identifying the factors that influence both mothers. and fathers. physical activity decision making. These findings, in turn, provide a foundation on which to build effective intervention programs aimed at increasing parents. regular physical activity which is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of parents with young children.

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ID Code: 48094
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: White, Katherine & Cuddihy, Thomas
Additional Information: Recipient of 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: physical activity, exercise, mothers, fathers, parents of young children, theory of planned behaviour, self-determination theory, action planning, coping planning, social influences, physical activity measurement, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Jan 2012 05:34
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2017 14:43

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