Purpose: The promotion of physical activity (PA) for youth with disabilities is of particular need as this population demonstrates lower levels of PA and greater risks for secondary health conditions. Parental influences on PA for youth without disabilities have been widely researched, however little has been done to examine parental influences for youth with disabilities beyond parent demographics. This is problematic as parents of youth with disabilities may be overprotective of their child, thus limiting PA exposure. Furthermore, it has been documented that over half of the PA outside of school occurs within family contexts (Modell et al., 1997). Thus, parents serve as the primary facilitator of leisure time PA for this population. Parental perception of the benefits of being physically active may explain additional reasons for youth activity or inactivity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between physical activity participation and parent beliefs on the importance of physical activity for youth with disabilities.
Methods: The parents of 113 youth with disabilities (72 males, 41 female) were conveniently sampled. Parents completed a modified version of the perceived benefits subscale of the Exercise Benefits/Barriers Scale (EBBS; Sechrist et al., 1987); reported the number of days their child engaged in more than 60 minutes of PA over the past week; and demographic information including severity of the disability. The total score for the EBBS was calculated using the average of the responses and showed high internal consistency, α = 0.96.
Analysis/Results: Multiple regression analyses were conducted using the number of days with at least 60 minutes of PA during the last week as the dependent variable. Independent variables included age, gender, severity of disability for the child, and parent EBBS score. This model accounts for 18.9% of the variance in days of PA participation. Results showed that the number of days of PA was predicted by gender (B=1.03, t=2.02, p<0.05) and by the EBBS score (B=1.46, t=2.89, p<0.01). These results suggest that youth with disabilities that are male or whose parents have more positive beliefs of the benefits of PA are adequately active for more days during a week. In addition, these findings revealed that youth with disabilities engaged in an average of 3.7 days of adequate PA per week.
Conclusions: Physical activity promotion for youth with disabilities should focus on educating parents of the benefits of PA, in addition to creating more opportunities for youth with disabilities, especially for girls.