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Open Access Research article

Parental factors associated with walking to school and participation in organised activities at age 5: Analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study

Sinead Brophy1*, Roxanne Cooksey1, Ronan A Lyons1, Non E Thomas2, Sarah E Rodgers1 and Michael B Gravenor1

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Health Information, Research and Evaluation, School of Medicine, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, Wales, SA2 8PP, UK

2 Centre for Child Health, School of Human Sciences, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, Wales, SA2 8PP, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-14

Published: 6 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Physical activity is associated with better health. Two sources of activity for children are walking to school and taking part in organised sports and activities. This study uses a large national cohort to examine factors associated with participation in these activities.

Methods

The Millennium Cohort study contains 5 year follow-up of 17,561 singleton children recruited between 2000-2002 in the UK. All participants were interviewed in their own homes at 9 months, 3 years and 5 years follow-up and all measures were self reports. Logistic regression and likelihood ratio tests were used.

Results

Children are less likely to walk to school as income and parental education increase [Adjusted odds: 0.7 (95%CI: 0.6-0.8) for higher income/education compared to low income/no qualifications]. However, if the parent plays with the child in high income families the child is more likely to walk to school [Adjusted odds: 1.67 (95%CI: 1.3-2.1)]. Children taking part in organised activities are from higher income, higher education families, with a car, in a "good" area with non-working mothers. However, in low socio-economic families where the parent plays with the child the child is more likely to take part in organised activities [Adjusted odds: 2.0 (95% CI: 1.5-2.7)].

Conclusions

Income is an important determinant of the type of activity available to children. Families that report good health behaviours (non-smoking, low TV viewing) and play with their children show higher levels of physical activity. Thus, parenting practice appears to have a strong impact on their child's physical activity.