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: 3.09). 09/2006; 43(3):212-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.03.024
Source: PubMed


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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    • "Urban neighborhoods have more sidewalks, mixed land uses, better street connectivity and more playgrounds than rural areas (Lopez and Hyness, 2006). Within urban area, children in inner city neighborhoods are engaged in less physical activity than those in suburban areas (Weir et al., 2006). More anxiety about neighborhood safety may deter physical activity and help explain a higher obesity rate in inner city areas (Felton et al., 2002, Wilson et al., 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: Based on the data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2012, this study examines the association of neighborhood built environments with individual physical inactivity and obesity in the U.S. Multilevel modeling is used to control for the effects of individual socio-demographic characteristics. Neighborhood variables include built environment, poverty level and urbanicity at the county level. Among the built environment variables, a poorer street connectivity and a more prominent presence of fast-food restaurants are associated with a higher obesity risk (especially for areas of certain urbanicity levels). Analysis of data subsets divided by areas of different urbanicity levels and by gender reveals the variability of effects of independent variables, more so for the neighborhood variables than individual variables. This implies that some obesity risk factors are geographically specific and vary between men and women. The results lend support to the role of built environment in influencing people׳s health behavior and outcome, and promote public policies that need to be geographically adaptable and sensitive to the diversity of demographic groups. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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    • "Many studies have examined the association between family income and children's physical activity (PA) and have demonstrated that children living in poverty have limited access to resources and areas for play and PA than children whose families are producing higher incomes (Romero et al., 2001; Tandon et al., 2012). Findings, particularly from the inner city and suburban areas, have also shown that when children in poverty are exposed to resources and safe play areas, the areas are often perceived to be unsafe or not enriched (Goodway and Smith, 2005; Weir et al., 2006). Thus, disadvantaged children do not engage in PA and are not encouraged by their parents to utilize play environments for safety concerns. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To examine potential differences in children's physical activity and parent support of their children's physical activity based on family income within the rural setting. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 566 parents of children (5-15 years-old; mean = 7.7 years; standard deviation = 2.4) living in rural West Virginia from 2010 to 2011 was conducted. Children were recruited and had participated in a school-based health screening program. Results: Overall, parents from a rural setting reported that their children engaged in an average of five days of physical activity for at least 60 min. Upon closer examination, children from lower-income families engaged in more physical activity, on average, than children from higher income families per parent report (mean = 6.6 days, confidence interval 95% = 4.9-6.0 vs. middle-income mean = 5.0, confidence interval 95% = 4.4-5.3 and highest-income mean = 4.5, confidence interval 95% = 4.1-4.7; p = .01). Rural parents supported their children's physical activity in numerous ways. Parents with the lowest incomes were more likely than parents from higher income families to encourage their children to be active and use their immediate environment for play and to be directly involved in physical activity with their children. More affluent parents were more likely to transport their children to other activity opportunities than parents from the lower income brackets. Conclusions: Lower income families may utilize their immediate environment and encourage activity among their children whereas more affluent families focus on organized opportunity more often than lower income families. These findings emphasize the need to conceptualize the role family income plays in physical activity patterns and the potential benefit it provides to some families.
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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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