Collateral effects of a family-focused behavioral intervention on physical activity

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There are significant and wide-ranging health benefits of physical activity, yet the majority of adolescents in the United States do not engage in the recommended amount. This poses a significant

There are significant and wide-ranging health benefits of physical activity, yet the majority of adolescents in the United States do not engage in the recommended amount. This poses a significant public health challenge. Parents have a substantial influence on adolescents' levels of activity, indicating that parenting may be an especially salient target of interventions designed to promote physical activity. The current study tested the hypothesis that a family intervention to promote effective parenting would have a positive collateral effect on adolescent physical activity. This study also tested whether the increase in activity was mediated by changes in parental monitoring and family relationship quality. Furthermore, the current study assessed whether adolescent gender moderated the relationship between parental monitoring and physical activity, such that increased parental monitoring predicted increases in physical activity for girls, but not for boys. Participants were 232 adolescents at risk for behavior problems drawn from a larger randomized controlled trial of the Family Check-Up. Adolescents completed questionnaires and participated in a family assessment with their caregivers in the 6th through 9th grades. Youth randomized to the intervention reported significantly more physical activity at follow-up relative to controls. Results failed to confirm the role of family factors as mediators of the effect of the intervention on physical activity. When gender was considered as a moderator, it appeared that parental monitoring was strongly and positively correlated with physical activity for girls, but not for boys. While the mechanism by which the Family Check-Up leads to increased physical activity remains unclear, its robust effects suggest that family intervention can be used to promote physical activity and might therefore have further-reaching health benefits.