Social network analysis in child physical activity and sedentary behavior research: A systematic literature review


Background: Regular physical activity (PA) has many benefits for children and adolescents, yet many do not meet PA recommendations. Social context is important for promoting or discouraging PA among children and adolescents. This review aimed to identify social network variables related to PA among children and adolescents.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted in September 2018 using PsycInfo, Medline, PubMed, and Web of Science. Included articles needed: 1) be focused on children (ages 5-11 years) or adolescents (ages 12-17 years); 2) include a measure of PA; 3) include a measure of egocentric or sociocentric social connection in which alters were nominated; and 4) perform an analysis between network data and PA.

Results: A search of 11,824 articles was refined to a final sample of 29 articles. Social network themes and concepts such as homophily, centrality, and network composition were related to child and adolescent PA behavior across the literature.

Conclusions: The impact of an individual’s social network is evident on their PA behaviors. More research is needed to examine why these networks form in relation to PA, and how interventions can utilize SNA to more effectively promote PA, especially in underserved and minority populations.

Journal of Physical Activity & Health