Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Degree Program

Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Health Promotion, PhD

Committee Chair

Wilson, Richard W.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

King, Kristi

Committee Member

Gagne, Patricia

Committee Member

Jones, V. Faye


Exercise for children; Physical fitness for children; Parent and child; Physical fitness--Social aspects; Exercise--Social aspects


Introduction: In 2008, a coalition of community leaders and parents sought to increase access to physical activity opportunities for residents of Meade County, a rural Kentucky community. To date, the Meade Activity Center has implemented a variety of year-round programs conducted at borrowed spaces from local schools that have targeted children, utilizing the strategy to first engage children as a way to extend behavior change to other members of the community. This study assessed the influence of child participation in physical activity programs on parent physical activity, and determined potential methods of intervention to increase adult physical activity in a rural community. Methods: Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 21 parents of children who participated in the physical activity programs. Constructs from social cognitive theory and the social ecological model provided sensitizing concepts that were investigated during data collection. Data were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a grounded theoretical approach. Results: Findings revealed increased community awareness surrounding physical activity following program implementation. In addition to increased physical activity levels, children experienced social growth through program participation. Program effects in increasing child physical activity levels have somewhat “trickled-down” to influence physical activity in parents as well due to the close-knit, family-centered social environment specific to this community. Parents and children encouraged and motivated each other to be physically active, though younger children initiated joint physical activity more often than adolescents. Barriers to adult physical activity, including a lack of community spaces for families to be physically active together, were identified. Conclusions: These findings indicate a bidirectional influence between parent and child physical activity behaviors and the need for community recreational facilities where both children and adults can be physically active together. Study findings highlight the need for further research into the relationship between childhood physical activity interventions and parent health behaviors and outcomes.

Included in

Public Health Commons