The Influence of Family Dog Ownership and Parental Perceived Built Environment Measures on Children’s Physical Activity within the Washington, DC Area

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2017-11-16

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Roberts, J.D.; Rodkey, L.; Grisham, C.; Ray, R. The Influence of Family Dog Ownership and Parental Perceived Built Environment Measures on Children’s Physical Activity within the Washington, DC Area. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 1398.

Abstract

Sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are significant contributors to youth obesity in the United States. Neighborhood dog walking is an outlet for physical activity (PA). Therefore, understanding the relationship between built environment, dog ownership, and youth PA is essential. This study examined the influence of dog ownership and parental built environment perceptions on children’s PA in the Washington, D.C. area. In 2014, questionnaires were mailed to 2000 parents to assess family dog ownership; children’s outdoor dog walking or playing; and parental perceived built environment measures. Chi-square analyses examined differences in parental perceived built environment measures between children with and without family dogs. The sample included 144 children (50% female; average-age 9.7 years; 56.3% White; 23.7% African-American; 10.4% Asian-American; 29.9% owned dog). Only 13% and 5.6% of the children walked or played outdoors with the dog daily, respectively. A significantly greater proportion (p-value < 0.05) of parents who owned dogs recognized and observed some home built environment measures (e.g., traffic speed on most streets is 30 mph or less) that were PA -promoting for their children. Findings suggest that dog ownership may provide more positive parental perceptions of the neighborhood built environment, which supports children’s outdoor PA through dog walking and playing.

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