“You’ve got to settle down!” Mothers’ perceptions of physical activity in their young children_2015.pdf

Abstract
Background: Mothers are important mediators of children’s physical activity (PA) level and risk of obesity, however
previous studies of maternal perceptions of child PA have been limited. Furthermore, it is unknown if maternal
perceptions of child PA are predicted by family, mother and child characteristics. Therefore objectives of this study
were to 1) evaluate maternal perceptions of PA in their children and 2) test associations of family, mother and child
characteristics with these perceptions.
Methods: 278 low-income mothers of children (mean age 70.9 months) participated in an audio-taped
semi-structured interview. Transcripts were systematically analyzed using the constant comparative method and
themes were generated. A coding scheme to classify the themes appearing in each transcript was developed and
reliably applied. Anthropometrics were measured. Demographics and questionnaires (the Confusion, Hubbub and
Order Scale, The Parenting Scale, and the Child Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ)) were collected. Logistic regression
models were used to test the associations of family, mother and child characteristics with each theme.
Results: In this sample of low-income United States mothers, two themes emerged: 1) Mothers perceive their
children as already very active (87.8 %, n = 244), predicted by the child being younger, the child not being
overweight, and higher child CBQ Activity Level; and 2) Mothers view their children’s high activity level as
problematic (27.0 %, n = 75), predicted by lower Parenting Laxness, the child being male and lower child CBQ
Inhibitory Control.
Conclusions: Low-income United States mothers have unique perceptions of PA in their children; these beliefs are
associated with characteristics of the child and mother but not characteristics of the family. Further understanding
of contributors to maternal perceptions of child PA may inform future childhood obesity interventions. The
influence of these perceptions on physical activity outcomes in low-income children should be pursued in future
research.