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Fathers’ perspectives on the diets and physical activity behaviours of their young children

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      Abstract

      BackgroundChildren’s learning about food and physical activity is considerable during their formative years, with parental influence pivotal. Research has focused predominantly on maternal influences with little known about the relationships between fathers’ and young children’s dietary and physical activity behaviours. A greater understanding of paternal beliefs regarding young children’s dietary and physical activity behaviours is important to inform the design and delivery of child-focussed health promotion interventions. This study aimed to describe fathers’ perceived roles in their children’s eating and physical activity behaviours. It also sought to document fathers’ views regarding how they could be best supported to promote healthy eating and physical activity behaviours in their young children.MethodsIn depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty fathers living in socio-economically diverse areas of metropolitan Melbourne, Australia who had at least one child aged five years or less. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.ResultsThematic analysis of the transcripts revealed eight broad themes about fathers’ beliefs, perceptions and attitudes towards the dietary and physical activity behaviours of their young children: (i) shared responsibility and consultation; (ii) family meal environment; (iii) parental role modelling; (iv) parental concerns around food; (v) food rewards; (vi) health education; (vii) limiting screen time; and (viii) parental knowledge. Analysis of themes according to paternal education/employment revealed no substantial differences in the views of fathers.ConclusionsThis exploratory study presents the views of a socio-economically diverse group of fathers regarding the dietary and physical activity behaviours of their young children and the insights into the underlying perceptions informing these views. The findings suggest that fathers believe healthy eating behaviours and being physically active are important for their young children. Fathers believe these behaviours can be promoted and supported in different ways including through the provision of appropriate meal and physical activity environments and parental role modelling of desired dietary and physical activity behaviours.

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      Most cited references 49

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      Environmental correlates of physical activity in youth - a review and update.

      Obesogenic environments are thought to underlie the increased obesity prevalence observed in youth during the past decades. Understanding the environmental factors that are associated with physical activity (PA) in youth is needed to better inform the development of effective intervention strategies attempting to halt the obesity epidemic. We conducted a systematic semi-quantitative review of 150 studies on environmental correlates of youth PA published in the past 25 years. The ANalysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity (ANGELO) framework was used to classify the environmental correlates studied. Most studies retrieved used cross-sectional designs and subjective measures of environmental factors and PA. Variables of the home and school environments were especially associated with children's PA. Most consistent positive correlates of PA were father's PA, time spent outdoors and school PA-related policies (in children), and support from significant others, mother's education level, family income, and non-vocational school attendance (in adolescents). Low crime incidence (in adolescents) was characteristic of the neighbourhood environment associated with higher PA. Convincing evidence of an important role for many other environmental factors was, however, not found. Further research should aim at longitudinal and intervention studies, and use more objective measures of PA and its potential (environmental) determinants.
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        Development of eating behaviors among children and adolescents.

        The prevalence of obesity among children is high and is increasing. We know that obesity runs in families, with children of obese parents at greater risk of developing obesity than children of thin parents. Research on genetic factors in obesity has provided us with estimates of the proportion of the variance in a population accounted for by genetic factors. However, this research does not provide information regarding individual development. To design effective preventive interventions, research is needed to delineate how genetics and environmental factors interact in the etiology of childhood obesity. Addressing this question is especially challenging because parents provide both genes and environment for children. An enormous amount of learning about food and eating occurs during the transition from the exclusive milk diet of infancy to the omnivore's diet consumed by early childhood. This early learning is constrained by children's genetic predispositions, which include the unlearned preference for sweet tastes, salty tastes, and the rejection of sour and bitter tastes. Children also are predisposed to reject new foods and to learn associations between foods' flavors and the postingestive consequences of eating. Evidence suggests that children can respond to the energy density of the diet and that although intake at individual meals is erratic, 24-hour energy intake is relatively well regulated. There are individual differences in the regulation of energy intake as early as the preschool period. These individual differences in self-regulation are associated with differences in child-feeding practices and with children's adiposity. This suggests that child-feeding practices have the potential to affect children's energy balance via altering patterns of intake. Initial evidence indicates that imposition of stringent parental controls can potentiate preferences for high-fat, energy-dense foods, limit children's acceptance of a variety of foods, and disrupt children's regulation of energy intake by altering children's responsiveness to internal cues of hunger and satiety. This can occur when well-intended but concerned parents assume that children need help in determining what, when, and how much to eat and when parents impose child-feeding practices that provide children with few opportunities for self-control. Implications of these findings for preventive interventions are discussed.
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          Maternal employment and time with children: dramatic change or surprising continuity?

           S. Bianchi (2000)
          Despite the rapid rise in mothers' labor force participation, mothers' time with children has tended to be quite stable over time. In the past, nonemployed mothers' time with children was reduced by the demands of unpaid family work and domestic chores and by the use of mother substitutes for childcare, especially in large families. Today employed mothers seek ways to maximize time with children: They remain quite likely to work part-time or to exit from the labor force for some years when their children are young; they also differ from nonemployed mothers in other uses of time (housework, volunteer work, leisure). In addition, changes in children's lives (e.g., smaller families, the increase in preschool enrollment, the extended years of financial dependence on parents as more attend college) are altering the time and money investments that children require from parents. Within marriage, fathers are spending more time with their children than in the past, perhaps increasing the total time children spend with parents even as mothers work more hours away from home.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
            [2 ]School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
            [3 ]Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
            Coventry University, UNITED KINGDOM
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            • Conceptualization: ADW KDH KJC DC AC.

            • Data curation: ADW.

            • Formal analysis: ADW PvdP.

            • Investigation: ADW.

            • Methodology: ADW KDH KJC.

            • Validation: ADW PvdP.

            • Writing – original draft: ADW.

            • Writing – review & editing: ADW PvdP KDH KJC DC AJC.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
            1932-6203
            12 June 2017
            2017
            : 12
            : 6
            28604810
            5467895
            10.1371/journal.pone.0179210
            PONE-D-16-49140
            (Editor)
            © 2017 Walsh et al

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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            Figures: 0, Tables: 2, Pages: 19
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            Funding
            KDH is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT130100637; http://www.arc.gov.au/future-fellowships) and an Honorary National Heart Foundation of Australia Future Leader Fellowship (100370; https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/research/apply-for-funding/future-leader-fellowships). AJC is supported by an Australian Research Council fellowship (DE160100141; http://www.arc.gov.au/future-fellowships) and is a researcher within a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Policy and Food Systems (1041020; https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. KJC, DC, PvdP and ADW have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.
            Categories
            Research Article
            People and Places
            Population Groupings
            Families
            Fathers
            Biology and Life Sciences
            Behavior
            Parenting Behavior
            Medicine and Health Sciences
            Public and Occupational Health
            Physical Activity
            Biology and Life Sciences
            Behavior
            People and Places
            Population Groupings
            Age Groups
            Children
            People and Places
            Population Groupings
            Families
            Children
            Biology and Life Sciences
            Nutrition
            Diet
            Food
            Medicine and Health Sciences
            Nutrition
            Diet
            Food
            Social Sciences
            Sociology
            Social Stratification
            Biology and Life Sciences
            Nutrition
            Diet
            Medicine and Health Sciences
            Nutrition
            Diet
            Custom metadata
            Due to ethical restrictions related to participant consent, data cannot be made publicly available. Data are available upon request following approval from the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee and the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training. Interested researchers may contact Adam Walsh ( adam.walsh@ 123456deakin.edu.au ) to request data access.

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