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An examination of behavioral, psychological, socio- cultural and environmental factors that may explain gender differences in children's differences in children's physical activity


INTRODUCTION : Boys are consistently more physically active than girls, yet no single study has examined the multiple factors that may contribute to these differences. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the multilevel factors that may explain gender differences in children's moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). METHODS: A multilevel framework and two cross-sectional datasets were used to identify and examine multiple factors that may explain gender differences in MVPA. Sample One and Sample Two consisted of 178 and 133 child/ parent dyads, respectively. Measures included child seven- day accelerometry and a parent survey consisting of previously developed or new instruments. Linear regression analysis tested for bivariate associations between several multilevel factors with child's gender and MVPA. Hierarchical linear regression tested the variance explain in MVPA by multilevel factors. RESULTS: Parents were mostly young overweight females and 40% were Hispanic. The mean age of children was 8.1±0.7 years and 43% were Hispanic. Only 24% of children engaged in >̲60 minutes of MVPA on >̲5 days and boys engaged in eleven more minutes of MVPA per day than girls. Parent explicit modeling for PA was related to both child's gender and MVPA. The overall association between gender and MVPA was reduced by 22.7% when accounting for multiple variables in the model. Child's gender explained 4-5% of the variance in MVPA and demographic variables explained an additional 16-17%. Among girls, participating in more days of PE per week was associated with greater MVPA. Among boys, lower preference for sedentary behavior, greater parent perceptions of child's sports ability, greater parent support for child's PA, greater parent explicit modeling for PA, lower parent frequency of participating in sports, and greater number of PA equipment/facilities in the home were associated with MVPA. CONCLUSIONS : Gender differences in children's PA were not fully explained by the multilevel factors examined. Future research should use more objective measures and use prospective study designs. Health educators and public health professionals should advocate for more physical activity opportunities and more frequent participation in physical education for girls. The influence of parental factors on children's physical activity should be further evaluated

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