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BMC Public Health. 2014 Jan 21;14:61. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-61.

A cross-sectional study of the environment, physical activity, and screen time among young children and their parents.

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Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, W1-34 Van Vliet Centre, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H9, Canada.



To develop evidence-based interventions promoting healthy active lifestyles among young children and their parents, a greater understanding is needed of the correlates of physical activity and screen time in these dyads. Physical environment features within neighborhoods may have important influences on both children and their parents. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between several features of the physical environment with physical activity and screen time among 511 young children (≤5 years old) and their parents, after adjusting for socio-demographic factors.


From May to September, 2011, parents of 0-5 year old children from Kingston, Canada completed a questionnaire that assessed socio-demographic characteristics, their physical activity and screen time, and their child's physical activity and screen time. Guided by a previously developed conceptual framework, several physical environment features were assessed using Geographic Information Systems including, function (walkability), safety (road speed), aesthetics (streetscape), and destination (outdoor play/activity space, recreation facilities, distance to closest park, yard at home). Multilevel linear regression analyses were used to examine the relationships while adjusting for several socio-demographic factors.


The only independent association observed for the physical environment features was between higher outdoor play/activity space and higher screen time levels among parents. Several associations were observed with socio-demographic variables. For physical activity, child age, child care status, and family socioeconomic status (SES) were independent correlates for children while sex was an independent correlate for parents. For screen time, child age and family SES were independent correlates for children while neighborhood SES was an independent correlate for parents.


The findings suggest that socio-demographic factors, including social environment factors, may be more important targets than features of the physical environment for future interventions aiming to promote healthy active lifestyles in young children and their parents. Given this was one of the first studies to examine these associations in young child-parent dyads, future research should confirm and build on these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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