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Prev Med. 2012 Aug;55(2):119-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.05.015. Epub 2012 May 30.

Children's perceptions of physical activity environments captured through ecological momentary assessment: a validation study.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033-9045, USA.



This study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to investigate whether children's perceptions of physical activity (PA) settings correspond with (1) parents' perceptions of neighborhood characteristics (convergent construct validity) and (2) children's level of PA in those settings (concurrent criterion validity).


Low-to-middle income, ethnically-diverse children (N=108) (ages 9-13) living in Southern California participated in 8 days of EMA during non-school time. EMA measured current activity type (e.g., sports/exercise, TV watching) and perceptions of the current setting (i.e., vegetation, traffic, safety). The Neighborhood Environment Walkability Survey (NEWS) assessed parents' perceptions of neighborhood characteristics. EMA responses were time-matched to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (measured by accelerometer) in the 30 min before and after each EMA survey. Data were collected in 2009-2010.


Children's perceptions of vegetation and traffic in PA settings corresponded with parents' perceptions of the aesthetics (OR=2.21, 95% CI=1.04-4.73) and traffic (OR=2.64, 95% CI=1.31-5.30) in neighborhood environment, respectively. MVPA minutes were higher in settings perceived by children to have less traffic (β=3.47, p<.05).


This work provides initial support for the construct and criterion validity of EMA-based measures of children's perceptions of their PA environments.

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