Will you play with me? Changes in frequency of active play with social network for Mexican-heritage children participating in a father-focused health program


BACKGROUND and PURPOSE Child physical activity (PA) and active play are beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health; however, very few children meet PA guidelines to attain health benefits. Unfortunately, Latinx children report lower PA levels and are at elevated risk for developing obesity. Child PA is also significantly associated with PA behaviors of friends and family through support, influence, and co-participation. Past studies have focused on mother’s influence on and perception of child PA, especially within Mexican-heritage (MH) families; however, recently scholars have called for a renewed focus on fathers to promote the health of their children. This presentation will examine if participation in in a father-focused family-centered health program changes the frequency MH children report active play with friends and family.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES After this presentation, the participants will be able to explain the changes in child self-reported active play frequency with friends and family after participating in a father-focused health program.

METHODS Participating families consisting of child (aged 9-11), mother, and father were recruited from colonias by promotoras for participation in a six-week father-focused family-centered health program focused on healthy eating, active living, and family dynamics. Families were divided into five groups in a step-wedge intervention design; only data from groups 1-4 are used in this analysis as group five was interrupted by COVID-19 response. Children reported up to five people (alters) they actively played with the most in the previous month before and after the program. Children also reported each alters’ sex, their relationship to the alter, and frequency with which they played with the alter (“once in a while”, “sometimes”, “often”). Preliminary multilevel Poisson regression models examined the change in frequency at the alter level.

RESULTS Children (n=47, M age = 9.79 years, SD = 1.02, 53.2% girls) reported a mean of 3.79 alters (SD=1.32) and 4.24 alters (SD=1.13) after the program. Children were more likely to report more frequent active play with their alters after the program when compared to before the program (p=.03). Additionally, girls were more likely to report more frequent active play with alters (p=.03). Children were also significantly more likely to report more frequent active play with friends compared to family members (p=.04).

CONCLUSIONS Results suggest children in the program reported more active play with their social connections (i.e., friends and family) after participation in this health program. Specifically, results indicate girls reported more active play with others which is encouraging given girls tend to report less PA.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE AND POLICY Empowering or supporting children to activate their social network ties to be more active is theoretically supported through Family Systems Theory and Social Ecological Model. Results indicate these connections or activations are possible through a family-centered father-focused health program.

FUNDING SOURCE This project is made possible by funding from USDA-NIFA (#2015-68001-23234).

Apr 8, 2021
Active Living Conference 2021
Virtual ALC 2021