Peer and parental processes predict distinct patterns of physical activity participation among adolescent girls and boys

Margaret Lawler*, Caroline Heary, Gillian Shorter, Elizabeth Nixon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parents and peers play a key role in adolescents’ physical activity (PA). However, limited research has explored whether the processes by which significant others impact male and female adolescents’ PA differs across discrete patterns of PA participation. This study examined whether parent and peer support, pressure, acceptance and teasing were associated with distinct PA patterns among adolescent girls (groups comprising Organised Dance; Team Sport; Individual Sport; Walk/Run/ Outdoor games; Non-Participation) and boys (groups comprising Individual Sport; Team Sport; Mixed Type; Non-Participation). Nine hundred ninety-five students (M age = 13.72 years, SD = 1.25) from eight secondary schools in Ireland completed measures of support (mother, father, peer), parental pressure, peer acceptance, teasing and a diary outlining the frequency, context, duration and intensity of their engagement in PA. Multinomial logistic regression revealed mothers’ support was significantly associated with female team sport (OR = 1.09, p = 0.42) and individual sport (OR = 1.24, p < .001) but not male PA participation (p > .05). Father support was related to male individual sport (OR = 1.09, p = .023), team sport (OR = 1.15, p < .001) and mixed type (OR = 1.16, p < .001) PA behaviour, highlighting the significance of support from same gender parent. All female PA classes reported higher perceived friend support than non-participants (OR = 1.23–1.45, p < .001) highlighting the importance of peers for girls’ involvement in high and low levels of organised and non-organised PA. Gender differences were also evidenced across PA patterns for teasing, pressure, and peer acceptance. The findings underscore the importance of considering gender and pattern of PA participation when examining social influences on youth PA and identify target processes for intervention efforts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Early online date01 Mar 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescence
  • physical activity
  • latent class analysis
  • parents
  • peer acceptance
  • support
  • teasing
  • gender
  • sport
  • pressure
  • Health psychology

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