Changes in activation of Mexican-heritage children and father physical activity social networks in response to a father-focused family-centered health program.

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Physical activity (PA) and active play are beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health; however, very few families meet PA guidelines to attain health benefits. Unfortunately, Latinx children report lower PA levels and are at elevated risk for developing obesity. PA is also significantly associated with PA behaviors of friends and family through support, influence, and co-participation. Past studies have focused on mother’s influence on and perception of child PA, especially within Mexican-heritage families; however, recently scholars have called for a renewed focus on fathers to promote the health of their children. This dissertation examined if participation in a father-focused family-centered health program changes the social connections within Mexican-heritage children’s and fathers’ PA networks. Participating families consisting of child (aged 9-11), mother, and father were recruited from colonias by promotoras for participation in a six-week father-focused family-centered health program focused on family dynamics relative to healthy eating and active living. Children reported up to five people (alters) they actively played with the most in the previous month before and after the program. Likewise, fathers reported up to five people they with whom they were physically active. Children and fathers then reported each alters’ sex, their relationship to the alter, and frequency with which they played with the alter, if they thought the alter was active regularly, and if they alter helped them to be active as well as what they did most often with that person. Multilevel regression models examined the change in alter level variables. Children and fathers were more likely to report more frequent PA with their alters after the program when compared to before the program. Additionally, girls were more likely to report more frequent active play with alters when compared to boys; however, a significant interaction term indicated boys were more likely to increase this frequency as compared to girls. Supporting families to activate their social network ties to be more active, which is theoretically supported through family systems theory and Social Ecological Model, could result in more PA for children and families. Results indicate these connections or activations are possible through a family-centered father-focused health program.

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Social network analysis. Health disparities. Mexican-heritage. Physical activity.
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