• children;
  • physical activity;
  • sport;
  • role modelling;
  • parents


Objective: The socio-ecological milieu of children's physical activity is changing, perhaps causing perturbations within the causal ‘web’ that explains physical activity behaviours. It is unclear if the relative importance of parental role modelling is changing. Accordingly, this study examined associations of child-perceived parent physical activity and children's sport participation in 1985 and 2004.

Methods: In 1985 (179 girls, 211 boys) and 2004 (210 girls, 218 boys), Australian schoolchildren (9–15 years) in the same eight schools were surveyed on sport participation and perceptions of parents’ physical activity.

Results: In the 1985 sample, girls with active fathers played more sport. In 2004, boys and girls with active fathers or active mothers reported higher sport participation. In 1985, there were no differences in sport participation between those with both, either or neither parent active. In 2004, sport participation was highest among boys and girls with both parents active.

Conclusions: These results underscore the current role of parents as socialising agents for physical activity.

Implications: Intervention design should be founded on the most recent evidence of children's physical activity correlates.