Associations between children's physical activities, sedentary behaviours and family structure: A sequential mixed methods approach

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This mixed method paper explored the effect of family structure on children's physical activities and sedentary pursuits. It furthers the limited understanding of how family structure impacts on children's time in, and reasons behind engaging in, certain physical activities. Children from three inner city comprehensive schools in the Midlands, United Kingdom, participated through questionnaires (n = 381) and semi-structured interviews (n = 62). The results indicated that boys and girls from single parent families spent more time in sedentary activities during the week and at the weekend (P <0.01) when compared with their intact couple family counterparts. It was identified that children in single-parent families received less parental support due to a lack of time, transport and additional parental responsibilities that created a family environment that encouraged sedentary pursuits. Moreover, the barriers that encouraged sedentary activities also prevented children in single parent families from engaging in lifetime activities during the week. Children from intact couple families recorded more time in lifetime activities than those in single parent families (P <0.01). Finally, children in two-parent families had more opportunities to engage not only in these activities individually but also in joint activities with their parents, further reinforcing these behaviours.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Education Research
Issue number1
Early online date8 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011