What matters, parental or child perceptions of physical activity facilities? A prospective parent-child study explaining physical activity and body fat among children

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Objectives:Research explaining childhood obesity has been usually focused on cognitive and behavioral predictors assessed in parents only or in children only. In contrast, the dyadic approach allows to evaluate how parental and child predictors operate together to explain child physical activity (PA) and body fat. This study investigated relationships among: (1) parental and child perceptions of accessibility and safety of exercise facilities for children, (2) parental and child PA, and (3) parental and child body fat percentage.Design:A prospective and dyadic study with two measurement points was conducted. The follow up (Time 2) took place at 7–8-month after the baseline (Time 1).Methods:Data were collected among 922 dyads of parents (mean age 35.97 years old; 83.9% women) and children (aged 6–11; M = 8.42, 52% girls). Parents and children reported safety and accessibility perceptions (Time 1) and PA (Time 1 and 2). Parental and child body fat were measured objectively (Time 1 and 2).Results:Path analysis showed that parental perceptions of accessibility of PA facilities for children (Time 1) predicted child body fat and PA (Time 2). The associations were significant in a model accounting for longitudinal and cross-sectional associations between parental and child body fat and PA, controlling for age and gender of parents and children. Similar patterns of associations were found in the subsamples of dyads with children with normal body weight and with children with overweight/obesity.Conclusions:Parental, not child perceptions of accessibility of PA facilities predicted child PA and body fat.HighlightsWe attempted to explain physical activity and body fat among 6–11 years old children.The role of perceptions of the environment (its accessibility and safety) was tested.Longitudinal data (with 7–8-month follow-up) were collected in 922 child-parent dyads.Parental perceptions of accessibility of exercise facilities affected child outcomes.Child perceptions were unrelated to child physical activity or body fat the follow-up.

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