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Physical activity: a family affair
Physical activity: a family affair

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6 Gender differences

Interestingly, John and Joe do not have any sisters but if they did would the girls receive the same level of family support? In a review article Gustafson and Rhodes (2006) reviewed 34 studies. Twenty-seven of these studies examined gender differences related to parental influence on a child’s physical activity levels. Activity 5 will help you to gain a fuller appreciation of the research in this area.

Activity 5 Parental support and gender

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Read the abstract and Section 6 ‘Sex Relations’ of the article ‘Parental correlates of physical activity in children and early adolescents [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ (Gustafson and Rhodes, 2006) and answer the following questions.

  1. What are the authors trying to do in writing this article?
  2. What were the key findings from reviewing the existing research in this section of the article?
  3. What do you notice about the proportions of different research designs that feature in this review?


  1. The aim of this article is to collate the existing research on parental influences on children’s physical activity behaviours in order to establish any gaps in the research and to identify the direction for future research. The overall aim of the research is to improve current child physical activity intervention programmes.
  2. The majority of studies found a strong sex difference in physical activity levels, with boys tending to be more active and receiving more parental support. There is some evidence for a correlation between mother–daughter physical activity but mother–son correlations were not as consistent. There is a strong correlation between father and child physical activity, particularly between father and son, with only one of the studies not finding a relationship.
  3. Twenty-two studies were cross-sectional and five longitudinal. Longitudinal research is valuable as it allows the researcher to view any changes to the population that occur over a period of time, however they are expensive. In addition, such studies are also exposed to subjects dropping out or withdrawing from the research. Interestingly, none of the studies reviewed used experimental designs.