Recent Publication: Identity in Parental Support for Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Among Overweight and Obese Children

Introduction: Parental support behaviors are established predictors of children's physical activity and healthy eating. However, little is known about predictors of these parental support behaviors. Identity (i.e. a component of the self-concept) has been hypothesized to be an influential construct that may be associated with a variety of behavioral antecedents and behavior itself. Specifically, research suggests healthy eating or physical activity parental support affective attitude may predict parental identity, and that identity may predict support behavior directly and indirectly through support self-regulation (e.g. planning). Thus, this study expands on past literature by exploring these antecedents and outcomes of parental identity in the context of parental support for physical activity and healthy eating among overweight and obese children.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey design, 83 parents (61.4% female) with at least one overweight or obese child completed measures assessing parental support affective attitude, parental identity, support self-regulation, and actual support behaviors. Path analysis was conducted to examine model fit and hypothesized relationships between variables for eating and physical activity separately.

Results: For both behavioral domains, the model fit was good. Parental support affective attitude predicted parental identity, parental identity predicted support self-regulation, and support self-regulation predicted support behavior. Further, for both behaviors, support self-regulation mediated the relationship between parental identity and support behavior. Finally, parental identity also directly predicted support behavior for physical activity but not eating.

Conclusions: The results demonstrate the importance of identity in parental support behaviors. These results also show that fostering enjoyable experiences for parents while supporting their children may strengthen their supportive identities.

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