The Role of Friendship Networks in the Physical Activity and Screen Time of Children

  • Author / Creator
    Stearns, Jodie A
  • Children’s friendships and the wider friendship networks for which these relationships are embedded, are significant contexts for children’s development, and may play a role in shaping children’s physical activity (PA) and screen time (ST) levels. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the role of friendship networks in the PA and ST of grade 5 children (10-11 years-old). Participants were involved in the APPLE Schools project (A Project Promoting healthy Living for Everyone in schools) in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Canada, in 2013. They wore piezo-electric time-stamped pedometers for 9 consecutive days and completed a sociometric survey of their close and best within-school and within-grade friendships. Parents reported on demographic characteristics and children reported their ST, friend support for PA and ST, along with barrier self-efficacy and enjoyment for PA. Study 1 examined whether school-based friends are more similar in their pedometer-measured PA compared to children who are not friends, and whether these patterns vary across gender, strength of friendship (best versus close friends), and during vs. outside of school. Best female friends exhibited similar levels of PA on school days and close female friends on non-school days. Only male best reciprocated friends were similar on their total PA levels. Study 2 investigated whether characteristics of the friendship network are associated with the pedometer-measured PA and self-reported ST of children, and differences by gender. For females, friend PA was positively associated with their PA, and friend screen co-participation and friend ST (paired with daily friend discouragement of sedentary activities) were positively associated with their ST. In-isolate females (i.e., those with none or only one incoming friendship) had lower levels of ST than those with two or more incoming friendships. Whereas for males, friend PA, friend support for PA, and in-degree centrality (i.e., social status) were positively associated with their PA, and friend discouragement of sedentary activities and co-participation in screen activities were associated with their ST. Both in- and out-isolate males (i.e., those with none or only one incoming or outgoing friendship) were less active than non-isolates. Study 3 examined whether enjoyment and barrier self-efficacy for PA mediated associations between characteristics of the friendship network and the pedometer-measured PA of children, and differences by gender. In males, enjoyment of PA mediated positive associations between friend support for PA and child PA, and in-degree centrality and child PA. Though friend support for PA was positively associated with enjoyment and self-efficacy for PA in females, no mediation effects were observed. The findings from this dissertation may inform the development of friendship network strategies for health promotion programming within families, schools, the community, and/or media campaigns.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.