University of Limerick
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Socialisation of the primary school child into a physically active lifestyle

posted on 2023-01-31, 09:55 authored by Sylvia O'Sullivan
Mounting epidemiological evidence shows physical inactivity and lack of exercise to be related to the occurrence of several diseases and degenerative conditions in adulthood. The maintenance of a physically active lifestyle, as well as the development of positive attitudes towards physical activity are viewed by many as major components of preventive medicine that should begin in childhood. In a synthesis of study findings of the decade 1985-1995, the observed relationships between physical activity and conditions of public health importance are reviewed. Patterns and trends in children's physical activity behaviour, observed in youth studies of the same period, are outlined. Physical activity of children is described as the product of a complex interweaving of biographical, social and cultural threads, and studies examining such influences on behaviour are discussed. The population study was designed to increase understanding of physical activity behaviour, and its social context in the lives of young people. Data were collected from a cohort of preadolescent children in 5th and 6th classes of primary school. 1,602 children were interviewed, 810 girls and 792 boys, in a nation-wide random sample of 62 Irish national primary schools. Socio-cultural factors were suggested to contribute to the high activity participation rate observed for this population. Gender differences in recreational activity were significant (p <.0001), and a significant decline was observed in girls' activity from 5th to 6th class (p<.000l). Evidence of social class effect on behaviour was not convincing. In regression analysis, gender (B, -.209, 95% Cl -.277 to -.141, p < .0001), sports club membership (B,.201, 95% Cl .131 to .272, P < .0001), and social integration status (B, .039, 95% Cl .024 to .055, P < .0001) were identified as significant independent predictors of recreational activity. Parental support and physical selfperception were weak predictors. Primary PE, measured by the physical education index, was significantly and positively associated with activity, and independently of all variables included in the analysis (B,0.016, 95% Cl 0.012 to 0.021, P <.0001). The physical education index provided a significant increment in the prediction of children's activity over and above the effects explained by demographic and sociometric variables. No association was observed between self-assessed health and well-being and activity. Children's PE curriculum experience and school travel patterns were also examined. Findings attest to the importance of the primary school in the education of children for lifetime health. [References: 1,117]



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Ní Charthaigh, Dearbhal





Department or School

  • School of Education

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