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Open Access Research article

Family joint activities in a cross-national perspective

Apolinaras Zaborskis1*, Nida Zemaitiene1, Ina Borup2, Emmanuel Kuntsche3 and Carmen Moreno4

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Biomedical Research of Kaunas University of Medicine, 4, Eiveniu str., Kaunas, LT-50009, Lithuania

2 Nordic School of Public Health, Box 12133, SE-402 42 Göteborg, Sweden

3 Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems, Research Department, P.O. Box 870, CH 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland

4 University of Sevilla, Dept of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, 41018 Sevilla, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:94  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-94

Published: 30 May 2007

Abstract

Background

Parents and children joint activities are considered to be an important factor on healthy lifestyle development throughout adolescence. This study is a part of the Cross-National Survey on Health Behaviour in School-aged Children – World Health Organization Collaborative Study (HBSC). It aims to describe family time in joint activities and to clarify the role of social and structural family profile in a cross-national perspective.

Methods

The research was carried out according to the methodology of the HBSC study using the anonymous standardized questionnaire. In total, 17,761 students (8,649 boys and 9,112 girls) aged 13 and 15 years from 6 European countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Greenland, Lithuania, Spain, and Ukraine) were surveyed in the 2001–2002 school-year. The evaluation of joint family activity is based on 8 items: (1) watching TV or a video, (2) playing indoor games, (3) eating meals, (4) going for a walk, (5) going places, (6) visiting friends or relatives, (7) playing sports, (8) sitting and talking about things (chatting).

Results

Students from Spain and Ukraine reported spending the most time together with their families in almost all kinds of joint activities, whereas students from Greenland and Finland reported spending the least of this time. Boys were more likely than girls to be spending time together with family. Joint family activity goes into decline in age from 13 to 15 years. Variability of family time in a cross-national perspective was relatively small and related to children age category. Considering national, gender and age differences of studied population groups, we found that the distribution of joint family activities tends to be dispersed significantly by family structure (intact/restructured family) and family wealth.

Conclusion

Our study compares children and parent joint activities in European countries and reveals differences and similarities in these patterns between countries. The findings underline the role of family structure (intact/restructured family) and family wealth in the distribution of time spent in joint family activities, which should be considered by health promoters.