Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Marcie Wright


Trends in childhood obesity have lead to a generation that has a shortened lifespan, where excessive weight may decrease life expectancy by as much as five years. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for childhood obesity as well as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. Addressing inactivity in children could help keep the obesity epidemic from continuing to grow as well as help address other health concerns. The specific aims of this study are 1) To examine the effect of parental role-modeling of exercise on children’s activity level by specifically looking at the role of the mother and the father, 2) To determine what variables affect the relationship between parental role-modeling of physical activity and child’s physical activity, and 3) To assess what other variables are associated with children’s physical activity. This cross-sectional study uses data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) 2003. The results of this survey are weighted to represent the population of non-institutionalized children ages 0-17 nationally and in each state. This study focused on Virginia as approximately 13.8% of children ages 0-17 in Virginia are overweight and only 23.7% exercise vigorously everyday (26% nationally). The study sample was n=949 children. The sample was predominantly White (76.2%) with approximately equal numbers of males and females. The exposure of interest was parent’s regular exercise (yes/no) and the outcome of interest was child’s regular exercise (0-3 days a week/ 4+ days a week). Potential confounding variables included age, gender, race, BMI, the mother’s and father’s health, and smoking. The crude results of the study show that children with mothers who did not exercise regularly were more likely to exercise than children with mothers who did exercise regularly (OR= 1.19, 95% CI [0.83, 1.72]). Children with fathers who did not exercise regularly were less likely to exercise than children with fathers that did exercise regularly (OR=0.86, 95% CI [0.57, 1.28]). However, after adjustment, children with mothers who did not exercise regularly were less likely to exercise than children with mothers who did exercise regularly (OR=0.99, 95%CI [0.71, 1.32]). The same was true for fathers (OR=0.77, 95%CI [0.49, 1.22]). The results of this study could have possible policy implications. Interventions and programs that are implemented in schools and in communities need to have a family component as this study, as well as others, have shown that parents can influence their child’s exercise behaviors purely by being active themselves. Encouraging and facilitating exercise by parents could be a cost-effective way of implementing obesity prevention efforts with children as well as helping to improve the health of the adult population. Further research needs to be undertaken where all current known risk factors for childhood obesity are included so that the relative importance of these factors can be investigated.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009

Included in

Epidemiology Commons