How considering parental, peer, and self-perception can combat obesity

On the last morning of the Global Summit, research presentations turned to questions of how parental, peer, and even self-perception can play a role in encouraging physical activity and preventing obesity.

Here are brief synopses of some of these presentations. See presentation abstracts for these and all Summit presentations in the open-access JPAH supplemental issue.

Influence of Parenting style on BMI, Physical Activity and Sedentary Time

Cory Selland PhD Candidate at South Dakota State University

The home is a very important space for forming children’s attitudes towards physical activity. Parents use particular behaviour, parenting styles and communication to influence their children’s behaviour. 

Four categories of parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian: I said so!
  • Authoritative: Democratic
  • Uninvolved: Hands Off
  • Permissive: Lenient

Past research has shown that this parenting style tends to have the best health outcomes including lower BMI, favorable dietary behaviours (eating breakfast, eating vegetable, healthy snacks), healthier home environment.

Whether this correlates to increased physical activity is subject to further study but in a study conducted using a sample of children from five schools evidence showed that children with parents identified as using an authoritative parenting style seemed to offer more protection from obesity and high BMI.

Adolescents’ Subjective Health: Associations with Physical Activity and Obesity

Amanda Staiano Pennington Biomedical Research Centre

This study considered how adolescent self-perception can be interpreted as a determinant of health in regards to physical activity and obesity.

Adolescents were allowed to choose a level of health from poor to excellent and objective height and weight measures were taken as well as reporting on their physical activity including vigorous, moderate and transportation as well as measuring sedentary activity including TV and computer use.

Those who self-identified as having excellent health were much less likely to be obese than those who indicated poor health and across the spectrum as self-indicators of good health increase from poor to excellent so did reports of activity including vigorous activity. In terms of sedentary time, there was not the same division with the numbers staying constant though there was a difference between types of screen time (TV vs. Computer time).

There can be utility in asking children and youth themselves how they feel about their health in measuring overall health.

Higher Peer Support and lower sedentary behavior are associated with higher physical activity self-efficacy in children 8 to 12 years of age

Michael Borghese CHEO’s HALO research Institute

This study was done to consider the reasons why research has shown Canadian children are taller, heavier, fatter and wearer than they were in 1991. Another reason to appraoch the questions from this lens is the real lack of data on the role peer influence has on physical activity.

This study used the Canadian Physical Competence Domain which includes for categories:

  • Daily Behaviour
  • Physical Competence 
  • Motivation and Confidence
  • Knowledge and Understading

With a focus on the domain of Motivation and Confiedence in trying to determine if children's self-efficacy and perception of peer support increased the predilection of physical activity and better physical literacy. Findings did show, among other things, that within the sample group of 500, Peer Support was show to be a big factor in feelings of adequacy in physical activity.