The Canadian 24-h Movement Guidelines
recommend that children and youth (5–13 years) accumulate a minimum of 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, engage in no more than 2 h of screen time per day, and obtain 9–11 h of sleep per night [1
]. Meeting these recommendations is linked to favorable body composition [2
], lower cardiometabolic risk scores [3
], favorable psychological well-being [4
], higher global cognition scores [5
], lower impulsivity scores [6
], and lower depressive symptoms [7
]. Many factors are implicated in the development and maintenance of these movement behaviors. One factor that plays a powerful role in shaping children’s health behaviors is the family environment [8
Parenting practices generally refer to the specific acts of parents when attempting to socialize their children and can include parental acceptance (e.g., affection, approval, warmth, and support) [10
] and monitoring (e.g., knowing where and with whom the child spends her time). These parenting practices safeguard children from risky health behaviors, promote positive health outcomes [11
], and play a crucial role in children’s movement behaviors according to a recent consensus statement [12
]. Numerous studies show positive associations between parental encouragement and support and children’s levels of physical activity [9
]. The relationship between parental acceptance and screen time remains largely unknown, though it is likely complex given the research on parenting styles and screen time; authoritarian (low acceptance, high demand) and permissive (high acceptance, low demand) parenting styles are linked with greater screen time among 5–10-year-olds [14
]. Moreover, parental monitoring of children’s sleep, physical activity, and media use is associated with longer sleep duration [15
], greater physical activity [16
], and less screen viewing among children [17
], respectively. A family environment that lacks parental acceptance and supervision can lead to problems in several aspects of children’s health, such as sleep problems due to worry [18
], increased time spent being sedentary, and increased reliance on screen devices.
In contrast to protective family factors, family conflict is considered a risk factor that may hinder children’s ability to meet the 24-h movement behaviors. Family conflict refers to openly expressed anger, aggression, and disagreement among family members [19
], and it is believed to interfere with parenting ability [20
]. Empirical evidence supports the notion that parents in high-conflict families may be unable to monitor their children’s physical activity, media use, and sleep habits. Family conflict is frequently linked with sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality in children [21
]. In fact, family conflict during childhood (7–15 years) predicts insomnia later in life [23
]. Marital conflict, in particular, has been shown to negatively impact children’s sleep as characterized by sleep onset latency, frequent awakenings, reduced sleep duration, and increased nightmares [24
]. Associations between family conflict and media use suggest that higher family tension is linked with greater television viewing among children [26
], and that children from high-conflict families (vs. those in less conflictual families) watch more violent electronic media [27
Research on the importance of the family environment on children’s health behaviors is ubiquitous [12
]. However, critical gaps exist in the literature. Many studies have generally focused on only one family characteristic or factor and its relationship with different health outcomes. Where multiple family characteristics are examined, researchers have often adopted “variable-centered” approaches, which assume that participants are drawn from a single, homogeneous population. Alternatively, “person-centered” approaches—such as latent profile analysis (LPA)—allow researchers to identify homogeneous groups, typologies, or profiles of participants characterized by differences on variables of interest (e.g., family environment). To date, no studies have examined different family environment characteristics and how they relate to children’s movement behaviors. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to use LPA to identify typologies of families characterized by parental acceptance, parental monitoring, and family conflict, and to examine whether such family typologies are associated with the number of movement behavior recommendations met by children.
The purpose of this study was to identify typologies of families characterized by parental acceptance, parental monitoring, and family conflict, and to examine whether these family typologies were associated with the number of movement behavior recommendations met. Using LPA, we found that children from families in our sample could be meaningfully classified into one of five family typologies: H-acceptance, H-monitoring, L-conflict (P1); H-acceptance, M-monitoring, M-conflict (P2); H-acceptance, M-monitoring, H-conflict (P3); L-acceptance, L-monitoring, M-conflict (P4); and M-acceptance, L-monitoring, H-conflict (P5). Results from logistic regression analyses revealed that children from less-than-ideal functioning families (P2-P5) were at progressively lower odds of meeting all three movement behaviors compared to children from families with H-acceptance, H-monitoring, L-conflict. Results of our study also highlight that as the number of movement behavior recommendations increased, the odds of meeting each recommendation category (i.e., ≥1 recommendation, ≥2 recommendations, and 3 recommendations) progressively decreased within any given family typology.
Overall, these findings generally align with previous research, demonstrating that families with certain qualities can either positively or negatively influence children’s health behaviors. Family qualities that have been linked with adverse health indicators among children include: family conflict; repeated episodes of anger and aggression; a lack of parental availability for, involvement in, and supervision of child activities; and relationships that are cold, unsupportive, and neglectful [33
]. Furthermore, children from families with M-acceptance
had the lowest odds of meeting each recommendation category (i.e., ≥1 recommendation, ≥2 recommendations, and 3 recommendations). Families with high levels of conflict are often lacking in acceptance, warmth, supervision, and parental availability. These combined characteristics of a family have not only been associated with a wide range of mental (e.g., anxiety, depression) and physical (e.g., aches and pains) risks among children but also with various educational (e.g., poor academic performance) and social (e.g., risky behavior, drinking) outcomes [33
]. Children from risky families are more likely than their peers to focus on tension reduction, distraction, and escape in stressful situations and fail to learn important self-regulatory skills. In contrast, children from healthy families experience a sense of emotional security and acquire behaviors that permit effective self-regulation. Thus, compared to their counterparts, the finding that children from families with M-acceptance
may experience greater difficulties accumulating physical activity, limiting screen time, and acquiring sufficient sleep is not surprising. Family interventions aimed at reducing conflict and increasing warmth and monitoring can help to promote the healthy development of the child.
Our findings should be interpreted while considering some limitations. The movement behaviors were measured using subjective assessments, which can increase measurement error and bias. More rigorous methods (e.g., objective assessments) are needed to further our understanding of the antecedents and outcomes of children’s movement behaviors. Finding ways to objectively measure screen time, in particular, should be a focus of future research. While examining total time spent on screens is important, information regarding time spent on specific platforms (e.g., Twitter, Instagram) would provide a more nuanced insight into the health impacts of screen media use among young people. Social desirability was not taken into account and therefore raises some concern regarding the presence of response biases. Furthermore, the relationship between family factors and children’s ability to meet the movement behavior recommendations is undoubtedly complex, and therefore, intervening variables (moderators and mediators) should be incorporated in future analytical models. Child temperament, which represents individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation [34
], plays an important role in children’s social and psychological development. Considering child temperament when examining family typologies and the movement behaviors may help to identify individual differences among children that make them more or less likely to meet the guidelines.
Despite its limitations, our study has several strengths and makes important contributions to both the movement behavior and family health literature. First, a methodological strength of our study was the use of LPA; classifying individuals, rather than variables, into profiles revealed that families in our sample varied on acceptance, monitoring, and conflict. Second, this study, to our knowledge, is the first to examine family typologies and their relationship with the 24-h movement behaviors, and thus improves upon and extends current knowledge on this topic. Findings from this study could be used to help inform future family-targeted interventions aiming to improve movement behavior adherence in children. Third, the family typologies generated in our study (via LPA) can be used in future studies to determine whether similar homogenous profiles emerge across more diverse samples. If similar profiles are identified, a theoretically meaningful taxonomy of family typologies could be developed.
That children from families with H-acceptance
, and L-conflict
were more likely to meet all three movement behaviors than children from less-than-ideal functioning families should be of interest to health researchers and practitioners. Parents/caregivers should focus on instilling healthy habits in children in the early years of their lives as this may be harder as children age. Some emerging research suggests that parents of children (6–13 years) may be hesitant to impose rules restricting children’s screen time because it could potentially lead to more conflict between the dyad as well as between siblings [35
]. Parents have also expressed that curtailing children’s screen time would require significant energy as they would be responsible for finding and creating alternative activities for their children [36
]. Some parents have admitted that their children’s digital media use makes their lives a bit easier by keeping their children occupied, allowing parents to do other activities (e.g., household chores, work-related tasks) [36
]. Therefore, exposing children to different non-screen-based activities at a young age might help to reduce parental concerns and consequences related to implementing household screen time rules.
Another important implication of our study is that, coupled with high acceptance and low conflict, high parental monitoring was favorably related to children’s physical activity, screen time use, and sleep duration. This should not be confused with the notion of “helicopter parenting”, which is a term used to describe parents who are potentially over-involved in the lives of their child and who micromanage their child’s life by being overly protective and unwilling to let go [37
], which is inherently different than knowing your child’s whereabouts and activities (i.e., parental monitoring). Parents should be reminded of this difference and aim to strike a balance when supervising their child’s whereabouts. The notion that excessive supervision can develop into helicopter parenting has been supported by empirical research whereby higher parental supervision was associated with higher perceived helicopter parenting [38