Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



School of Medicine


Community Practice

Committee Chair

Geri Dino.


Physical activity enhances child health. On average, boys are more active than girls. The causes of this disparity are not fully known, but are likely due to factors at multiple levels including individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy. Further, gender stereotypes that associate males with sports and physical activity behavior may also influence child physical activity. What is known is that girls benefit from physical activity just as boys do, and that parental support for boys' physical activity is generally higher than is parental support for girls. Additionally, parental supportive behavior for childhood physical activity is positively associated with increased child physical activity.;This project explored the influence of factors at three levels of the Social Ecological Model on parental support for physical activity in West Virginia children. Specifically, we examined the influence of individual parent health behavior and demographic characteristics (individual level), family composition and child gender (interpersonal level), and rurality (community level) on parental supportive behavior. The project utilized secondary data analysis of surveys collected through the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) project. Child-gender specific linear regression models showed that parent physical activity and child grade were significant predictors of parent support for physical activity in both boys and girls. Additionally in parents of girls, parent body mass index (BMI), total number of children in the home, and socioeconomic status (SES) were significant predictors of parent support for child physical activity. There was no significant difference in parental supportive behavior based on rurality; however parents of boys did report higher levels of supportive behavior than did parents of girls.;These findings suggest that parental support for girls' physical activity is more likely to vary based on other factors than is the case for boys. It is possible that physical activity in boys is seen as a higher priority in both families and in communities due to culturally prescribed stereotypes with males and sports and physical activity behavior. Thus support for physical activity may be a priority in the majority of parents of boys than it for girls across multiple circumstances. While not significant, this study also found that parents in rural areas have higher rates of support for physical activity. It could be that roots grounded in manual labor and farming in rural areas lead to greater support for physical activity. However girls in rural areas still had lower levels of support for physical activity than did boys. Future research should explore these factors further and assess interactions among multiple levels of the Social Ecological Model. Findings imply that there may be a need for targeted intervention to increase parental support in parents of girls, particularly as girls approach adolescence.