PARENTAL AND SCHOOL INFLUENCES ASSOCIATED WITH FIFTH GRADERS' HEALTHY EATING AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY BEHAVIORS
Michael, Shannon Lynn
Wentzel, Kathryn R.
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Healthy eating and physical activity behaviors are decreasing among children in the United States. Despite growing evidence that parents and schools are important influences on the healthy development of children and adolescents, few studies have explored the relations between parental and school influences and children's positive health behaviors. This study, therefore, examined how the associations between parental and school health-related practices and children's healthy eating and physical activity behaviors differed according to varying levels of parental nurturance and school belongingness, and whether these associations were mediated by children's self-beliefs (i.e., physical appearance self-worth and physical self-efficacy). A parent, school, and combined model were tested. Based on data from the Healthy Passages study measured-variable path models were used to evaluate the direct, moderating, and indirect effects of parental and school influences on children's positive health behaviors for 5,147 fifth graders and their primary caregivers. Findings revealed that the three models for both healthy eating and physical activity had adequate model-data fit indices. Parenting practices, including regulating the watching of television and observing children being physically active, were related directly to children's healthy eating and physical activity, respectively. One moderating effect indicated that there was a positive association between eating meals together and children's healthy eating in homes with high and medium levels of father nurturance (see Darling & Steinberg, 1993). Both mother and father nurturance were indirectly related to children's healthy eating and physical activity via children's self-beliefs. In addition, children's physical self-efficacy partially mediated the relation between parents observing their children engage in physical activity and children's physical activity behaviors. One school practice, minutes per week of physical education, was predictive of children's physical activity. Children's self-beliefs fully mediated the relation between school belongingness and children's healthy eating and physical activity. The combined parent and school model provided a more complete explanation of children's positive health behaviors than did either of the singular parent and school models. The results of this study constitute an initial step toward evaluating exploratory causal models of children's healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Implications of the findings and directions for future research are discussed.