Cross-generational physical activity: exploring the experiences of primary-school-aged children and their parents

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The aims of this program of research were to deepen current understanding of cross-generational physical activity (cross-gen PA) from the perspectives of primary school aged children and their parents and examine factors that influence engagement in cross-gen PA. Low engagement in physical activity (PA) is an important worldwide issue and children and parents are two important populations. Although previous research has examined factors that influence PA engagement of each population separately, little is known about how and why children and parents engage in PA together. The majority of studies that have investigated cross-gen PA have examined the phenomenon in only one dimension, as a component of parental support for a child’s PA. The program of research, informed by a social ecological framework (Sallis & Owen, 1997), examined cross-gen PA as a PA partnership between a child and parent. Using a mixed method, exploratory approach, data were collected from both child and parent participants within a single, geographically-defined area of regional New South Wales, Australia. Two studies examined the experience of cross-gen PA and factors that influenced engagement in cross-gen PA, guided by the following research questions. Study One – Survey of cross-gen PA 1. What form does cross-gen PA take when performed by primary school aged children and their parents? 2. Do children and parents perform any components of their ‘general’ PA as cross-gen PA? 3. What factors influence primary school aged children and parents to engage or not engage in cross-gen PA? 4. What do primary school aged children and parents like and dislike about cross-gen PA? Study Two – Hermeneutic study 5. Why do children and parents perform PA together? 6. What factors influence child and parent engagement in cross-gen PA? 7. What is the experience of cross-gen PA from both a child and parent perspective? The findings from the program of research challenge three major assumptions found in cross-gen PA research. First, this research found that rather than being focused on physicality, cross-gen PA is often more about the child-parent relationship than the PA itself. This finding explains why both children and parents valued their PA together, even if it was an infrequent occurrence. Both populations acknowledged the health benefits from engaging in PA together, but these benefits were often a secondary consideration to other factors, such as bonding. Second, contrary to what is usually assumed in PA research, this research found that cross-gen PA was a complex behaviour, consisting of more than just parental support for a child’s PA. Although children were found to raise themes common to parents, they also raised themes unique to the child. This demonstrates that the parent’s voice should not be used as a substitute for the child’s voice in research. Finally, the assumption that parents are the gatekeepers of their child’s PA was challenged, as this research found that cross-gen PA was co-constructed. Synthesis of the findings from this research led to the development of a model of cross-gen PA consistent with the social ecological framework that informed the research. The model shows the evolving nature of cross-gen PA and its role in influencing relationships and PA partnerships within the family context. Future health promotion and research should consider not just the physical benefits of cross-gen PA but also the relationship benefits, in order to provide a fuller picture of the phenomenon.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Coyle, Julia, Principal Supervisor
    • Pope, Rod, Principal Supervisor
    Award date01 Jan 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 07 Sep 2017


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