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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Parents in Highly Disadvantaged Neighborhoods More Likely to Restrict Children’s Play

Today’s parents are restricting their children’s outdoor play, but children in highly disadvantaged neighborhoods face more restrictions, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers recruited 263 adolescents and their parents from Baton Rouge, LA for the study, which sought to understand parenting practices for outdoor play and their impact on physical activity.  Participants completed questionnaires, and wore accelerometers.  Parents participated in in-depth interviews.

The study found that parents in high-disadvantage neighborhoods and those of adolescent girls imposed more restrictions on play, although the restrictions did not appear to have an impact on overall physical activity. Adolescents in these neighborhoods were limited to playing in their own yard, the sidewalk in front of their house, or not allowed to play outside at all; they also lacked community resources such as parks and pools that were more common in lower-disadvantage neighborhoods. Disadvantaged neighborhoods typically have higher crime and traffic problems, the study said.

“Being physically active and playing outdoors is essential for adolescent development,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Maura Kepper, research assistant professor at the Brown School. “Policy and environment change that improves neighborhood conditions may be necessary to reduce parents’ fear and lessen restrictions on outdoor play.”

The paper was published online Feb. 5 in Health & Place.

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