Sociological Aspects of Elementary Age Children's Physical Activity Essay

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Physical Activity

Sociological Aspects of Physical Activity

Sociological Aspects of Physical Activity of Children

Sociological Aspects of Physical Activity of Children

Sociological Aspects of Physical Activity of Children

Physical activity patterns among children are affected by aspects pertaining to individual, school, and community levels. At the individual level, physical activity participation is highest among boys, and socioeconomic differences are less consistently reported. Some degree of socialization is necessary for voluntary participation in physical activity to occur. For most children especially of grade 1, grade 2 and kindergarten, the major agents of socialization into sport appear to be the family, media, peer group, community, environment, geographic/seasonal and school (Bower, Hales, Tate, Rubin, Benjamin, Ward, 2008). The reasons for the prominence of these agents in socialization would include the intensity and frequency of contact, and the ability of these institutions or individuals to control rewards and punishments. Socialization affects the attitudes, values and behaviors of children and this would include those related to sport.

Sociological Factors/Aspects Determining the Physical Activity of Children


The family is believed to be the one of the major factors of socialization into sport. The effect of siblings upon a child's participation in sport has been found to be low in studies conducted to assess the influence of various agents of socialization into sport. Nevertheless, siblings may affect the sport participation of a child to some degree. Much as with other formative influences on childhood behavior, parents appear to be a strong influence on physical activity performance (Bower, Hales, Tate, Rubin, Benjamin, Ward, 2008). The mechanisms can be either direct (by providing a supportive, nurturing environment), indirect (through modeling), or, more likely, an interaction of the two. Additionally, it has been hypothesized that there could be a significant genetic transmission of factors that predispose the child to augmented physical activity. Parents who are active are expected to have active children. Timing of such influences may be a crucial issue in that there could be a stronger association between parental and child behaviors than between parental and adolescent behaviors (Nichol, Pickett, Janssen, 2009).


Peers are important socializing agents, especially in the period of early childhood because at this time children are growing and learning at their peak. Children at this age tend to copy what other children do and when they see their peers taking part in physical activity, they participate in it as well.


Schools are important agents of socialization because it is there that many children may first be exposed to a variety of sport activities as a participant. A body of research is emerging that demonstrates the role of schools in student physical activity patterns. Research has demonstrated the social environments and physical environments of schools to be associated with student physical activity behaviors. Specifically, social environments of school (e.g., teacher support, using physical activity as a means of appreciation and physical environments (e.g., number of recreational features, accessibility of equipment outside school are associated with physical activity participation among children (Bower, Hales, Tate, Rubin, Benjamin, Ward, 2008).

Schools can promote physical activity in children in many ways, including physical education classes, opportunities for activity during breaks during the school day, extracurricular sports and activity-based events, and access to recreational facilities and equipment. It was found that schools characterized by high sports team participation were significantly associated with student physical activity whereas encouragement for physical activity and PE class attendance were not (Leatherdale, Manske, Faulkner, Arbour, Bredin, 2010). Although participation in sports is obviously associated with physical activity at the student level, less is known about the impact of a school environment promoting sports and physical activity among the students (Nichol, Pickett, Janssen, 2009).


The media may effectively serve a socializing role through the process of observational learning. Children may develop an interest in an activity because they observed it, for example, on television.

Community and Neighborhood

Lastly, a child's interest in an activity may be fostered because of its popularity in the community and neighborhood. Thus, there is growing interest and investment in research that aims to determine the influence of community-level factors on population physical activity. Neighborhoods can influence the engagement in physical activity by their population through numerous mechanisms including interpersonal relationships (e.g., social supports), social inequalities (e.g., socioeconomic position), and neighborhood characteristics (e.g., cohesion, access to resources, walkability) (Witten, Hiscock, Pearce, Blakely, 2008). The relative importance of the influence of neighborhoods is often debated because adults easily move among neighborhoods for work, residence, and recreation, but children may be more captive and susceptible to their neighborhood environments. Previous studies examining the relationships between neighborhoods and physical activity have been limited in methodology and measurement. For example, numerous studies have reported the connection between supposed accessibility of entertaining facilities and physical activity for children.

When these studies are analyzed at the individual level, the major limitation is that children who are more physically active may perceive more opportunities for physical activity in their environments than do those who are less active. More recently, researchers have improved on the measurement of the physical environment through use of geographic information systems to link objective measures of neighborhood resources (Cradock, Kawachi, Colditz, Gortmaker, Buka, 2009). Although this approach inherently yields more accurate measures of the neighborhood, it assumes that all children have equitable access to their neighborhoods and that their perceptions of their environments do not influence how they engage with them.

For example, perceived safety of an environment may act as an obstacle to physical activity, independent of what the actual reported safety indicators may be. Therefore, reliance on objective measures of the physical environment may overlook significant features of the environment that influence how the population relates to it. Measuring the social contexts of children and their neighborhoods is somewhat more difficult and cannot easily be achieved with objective measures (Carver, Timperio, Crawford, 2008). Thus, previous studies describing the influence of social contexts in children's activity have been predominantly operationalized at the level of the student, not the neighborhood. For example, several studies have found associations between peer engagement and parent support and engagement in physical activity with physical activity among children. (Cradock, Kawachi, Colditz, Gortmaker, Buka, 2009) Fewer studies have used appropriate multilevel statistical techniques to document the connection between the community social setting and physical activity of children.

Studies have found that neighborhood-level security and social unity are related to physical activity among children, but little is known about how generalizable these findings are outside Chicago and with different populations. Socially cohesive neighborhoods, through their shared goals, collective trust, and social norms, can encourage healthy behaviors, such as physical activity.

Other Factors Which Influence Physical Activity of Children

Seasonal and Geographic

Seasonal and geographical factors play a vital role in deterring the physical activity performance in children. According to data from the NCYFS, activity levels are highest in summer, drop in fall, reach the lowest point in winter, and increase again in spring (Ross, Pate, 1987). Geographic variation in physical activity is not available, but studies show that children are not physically active in winter as compared to summer or other seasons. It logically follows that children who reside in cities and towns with milder winters can be more active. Data from NCYFS (5- to 8-year-old children) suggest a weak but significant correlation between two health-related fitness measures (aerobic capacity and body fatness) and whether the child resides in a warm climate (Ross, Pate, 1987). Children also are reportedly more active on weekends than during the week.

Television Viewing

One of the factors which determines the physical activity of children which is often discussed in the context of social criticism, because of the time spent by the children watching T.V. Studies have shown that the increase in the duration of watching television by the children decreases the amount of time available for children to have any kind of physical activity. Brown et al. reported that television-viewing decreased resting energy expenditures acutely in both normal-weight and obese children, identifying a metabolic mechanism for the association between watching television and obesity (Brown, Pfeiffer, McIver, Dowda, Addy, Pate, 2009) Although it has not been shown that decreased physical activity levels are associated with television-viewing, it has been shown that the time which is spent outside home denotes physical activity.

Because television-viewing reduces the opportunity to be outdoors, it follows that it also reduces the opportunity for physical activity. Recent data have suggested a significant difference between boys and girls in the first grade till fifth grade in amount of time spent watching television, indicating a possible focus for intervention efforts.


The means by which socialization occurs would include reinforcement of a child's attempts to engage in sport related behavior, deliberate instruction by the socializing agent (parents for example), and observational learning on the part of the child. In observational learning, the child observes modeled behavior (sport related activity). Observations may, in turn, strengthen the possibility of the child repeating the behaviors which were observed, especially if the consequences of the…[continue]

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