Being physically active is essential for maintaining and improving health, with benefits including normal growth and development, better mental functioning and sleep quality, and reduced risk for several chronic diseases and cancers . Physical activity (PA) is important in childhood and adolescence because they are critical periods for developing movement skills, learning healthy habits, and establishing a foundation for lifelong health and well-being . Yet evidence indicates that PA levels are insufficient in United States (US) adolescents 12–19 years of age with just 45% meeting the recommendation to engage in PA at least 1 hour per day . Thus, efforts are needed to increase PA levels of US adolescents to reduce their risk for chronic diseases and thus positively impact the nation’s health.
Parents can influence their children’s PA behaviors through the practices they use to support, encourage, and promote engagement in PA . Parenting practices are the content and context specific childrearing approaches parents use to bring about behavioral outcomes in their children including participation in PA . While systematic reviews have identified parenting practices, such as encouragement, support, and modeling, that are associated with child PA, findings across studies are inconsistent [3, 5, 6]. Lack of accordance in identifying dimensions of and operationalizing PA parenting practices may be partly to blame for inconclusive findings . To address these issues, Masse and colleagues proposed a content map that includes three overarching, higher order PA parenting practice domains – neglect/control, autonomy support, and structure . Neglect/control includes practices that are permissive (neglecting to plan child participation in PA) and pressuring (forcing child to participate in PA without consideration of child’s interest). Autonomy support includes encouragement, guided choice, involvement, and praise/reward practices that are intended to support child participation in PA. Structure practices include co-participation, expectations, facilitation, modeling, monitoring, and restriction for safety/academic concerns and are designed to structure the child’s physical and social environments to promote participation in PA. Autonomy support and structure practices are generally associated with positive PA outcomes in children [6, 7], while neglect/control practices are associated with negative outcomes .
Inconsistencies in research findings also may be partly due to studying individual relationships between parenting practices and children’s PA. Parenting practices often are not used in isolation with the use of some practices influencing the need for others . Additionally, few studies have assessed relationships between use of PA parenting practices and parent and child characteristics, such as sex and body weight. In a study designed to examine associations among parenting style, parenting practices, and child PA, both maternal and paternal logistic support and modeling were associated with higher levels of PA among boys and girls . In another study designed to examine maternal and paternal correlates of child adiposity, an inverse association was found between paternal reinforcement and child PA; mothers reported higher use of limit setting and monitoring while fathers reported higher use of control . However, a systematic review found limited evidence linking parental and child weight status to use of specific parenting practices . For public health professionals to develop interventions promoting effective parenting practices that positively impact child PA, identifying which PA parenting practices are used in combination and which patterns are associated with increased PA, as well as exploring associations with parent and child characteristics is essential.
Most research has focused on specific PA parenting practices with less attention given to children’s willingness to comply with those practices. The choice to obey or not obey their parents’ behavioral rules is partially dictated by whether children believe their parents have the right to set such rules – a concept known as legitimacy of parental authority (LPA) . As children age, they tend to desire more autonomy and less parental control or authority which may affect their behaviors. To date, LPA related to PA parenting practices has not been studied in both children and parents simultaneously.
In this paper, latent class analysis (LCA) was applied to publicly available data from the Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating (FLASHE) Study to identify subtypes of parent-adolescent dyads that exhibited similar patterns of PA parenting practices. Because it was believed that relationships among parenting practices differed among individuals, a person-oriented approach (LCA) was used rather than a variable-oriented approach, such as factor analysis that assumes relationships between variables are the same for all individuals. FLASHE was designed to examine psychosocial, generational (parent-child), and environmental correlates of cancer preventive behaviors from individual and dyadic perspectives . All three domains of PA parenting practices were measured – neglect/control, autonomy support, and structure – and fathers, underrepresented in the PA parenting practice literature , were purposively included . A dyadic approach allowed for exploration of interdependence between parent- and adolescent-reported PA parenting practices. Hence, the objectives of this paper addressed three gaps in the literature – determining patterns of PA parenting practices using a dyadic (simultaneous inclusion of both parent and child) and person-oriented approach and investigating associations among patterns and parent and adolescent demographic, anthropometric and PA measures.