Parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety and children's physical activity

Department of Pediatrics, New York Medical College, New York, New York, United States
Preventive Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.93). 09/2006; 43(3):212-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.03.024
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The obesity epidemic disproportionately affects minority and poor children. Negative perceptions of neighborhood safety in poor communities may affect overweight by inhibiting children's physical activity. This study investigates the degree to which parents in a poor inner city vs. a middle-class suburban community limit their children's outdoor activity because of neighborhood safety concerns.
Parents of children aged 5-10 years from an inner city family practice in a poor community and from a suburban pediatric practice in a middle-class community completed a 20-item questionnaire. Parents estimated the amount of their child's activity in various situations and indicated their level of anxiety concerning gangs, child aggression, crime, traffic, and personal safety in their neighborhood.
Inner city children (n = 204) engaged in less physical activity than suburban children (N = 103) (P < 0.001). Inner city parents expressed much greater anxiety about neighborhood safety than suburban parents (P < 0.0001). In the inner city population, children's physical activity levels were negatively correlated with parental anxiety about neighborhood safety (r = -0.18, P < 0.05).
Inner city parents have high levels of anxiety about neighborhood safety. While these concerns may not entirely explain the discrepancy in activity levels between inner city and suburban children, a safe environment is crucial to increasing opportunities for physical activity.

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    • "In addition, few efforts draw on citizen-informed evaluations that also provide an emic perspective on the safety and comfort of pedestrian environments. This is particularly important in evaluating street environments for child pedestrians and their parental gatekeepers, who have strong concerns about safety (Carver et al. 2008, 2010; Kerr et al. 2007; Weir et al. 2006). "
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    • "Appendix A. Parental Neighborhood Safety Perceptions Scale (Weir et al. 2006) "
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    • "However, studies also suggest adults' outdoor recreation patterns and preferences may be an equally influential predictor of young people's recreation behavior. Research has shown parents' (or guardians') behaviors and perceptions are significant determinants of children's involvement in recreational activities (Barnett and Chick 1986; Hutchinson, Baldwin and Caldwell 2003; King et al. 2006; Weir, Etelson and Brand 2006). For instance, a national study of young people in the U.S. revealed a strong correlation between children's time outdoors and the outdoor time of their parents or guardians (Larson, Green and Cordell 2011), and, a systematic literature review of factors influencing youth's physically active behavior found that parental support and encouragement were consistent, significant predictors of physical activity (Beets, Cardinal and Alderman 2010). "
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