Adolescent Physical Activity Disparities by Parent Nativity Status: the Role of Social Support, Family Structure, and Economic Hardship

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Journal Article

In this cross-sectional study, we examine disparities in physical activity (PA) rates, a determinant of obesity risk, by exploring the impact of household economic hardship, social support, and family structure on adolescent physical activity levels. We assess whether these factors have a different impact on PA stratified by parental nativity status (Hispanic adolescents of foreign- and native-born caregivers compared with whites). The sample included 1927 white and Hispanic 15-year-olds of foreign-born (outside of USA) and native US-born caregivers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. We assessed whether economic hardship, family/friend encouragement for PA, married/cohabiting caregivers, and having a resident grandparent was associated with frequency of PA in the past week, while controlling for age, education, and child's sex. We examined the interaction effects of parent nativity on economic hardship and family support. Results indicate disproportionately higher PA levels for white adolescents compared with Hispanic adolescents of foreign-born caregivers (B = -0.41, SE = 0.19, p = 0.03), for adolescents with more family/friend encouragement (B = 0.81, SE = 0.10, p < 0.001), and for adolescents in cohabiting households (B = 0.28, SE = 0.14, p = 0.04); support and hardship factors did not vary by nativity status. Researchers and practitioners should address differences among ethnic/generational subgroups and family/friend supports that may improve adolescent PA levels, particularly among Hispanic adolescent subgroups. Physical activity levels continue to be dismal especially for racial/ethnic minority groups, which puts them at further risk of consequences of physical inactivity, including life-long complications associated with being an obese adolescent.

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities