Open Access Research article

Environmental and cultural correlates of physical activity parenting practices among Latino parents with preschool-aged children: Niños Activos

Teresia M O’Connor12*, Ester Cerin34, Rebecca E Lee56, Nathan Parker5, Tzu-An Chen1, Sheryl O Hughes1, Jason A Mendoza78 and Tom Baranowski1

Author Affiliations

1 USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX USA

2 Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX USA

3 Institute of Human Performance, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR China

4 Centre of Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia

5 Affiliation where this work was done: Texas Obesity Research Center, Department of Health & Human Performance, University of Houston, Houston, USA

6 Present affiliation: College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA

7 Affiliation where this work was done: USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX USA

8 Present affiliation: Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, and the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:707  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-707

Published: 10 July 2014



Latino children are at high risk of becoming obese. Physical activity (PA) can help prevent obesity. Parents can influence children’s PA through parenting practices. This study aimed to examine the independent contributions of (1) sociodemographic, (2) cultural, (3) parent perceived environmental, and (4) objectively measured environmental factors, to PA parenting practices.


A cross-sectional sample of Latino parents (n = 240) from Harris County, TX in 2011–2012 completed validated questionnaires to assess PA parenting practices, acculturation, familism, perception of their neighborhood environment, and demographics. Home addresses were mapped and linked to Census block-level crime and traffic data. Distance to the closest park was mapped by GIS. Regression models were built in a hierarchical step-wise fashion.


Combined models showed R2 of 6.8% to 38.9% for different parenting practices. Significant correlations included sociodemographic variables with having outdoor toys available, psychological control, and promotion of inactivity. Cultural factors correlated with PA safety concern practices. Perceived environmental attributes correlated with five of seven parenting practices, while objectively-measured environmental attributes did not significantly correlate with PA parenting practices.


Interventions promoting PA among Latino preschoolers may need to address the social-ecological context in which families live to effectively promote PA parenting, especially parents’ perceptions of neighborhoods.

Physical activity; Child; Parenting; Correlates; Environment; Neighborhood; Acculturation; Latino