Promoting Healthy Sleep Behavior for Children Emerges as Top Parental Behavior in Canadian Study

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger children had higher levels of parental support overall; the study also found that mothers provided more support than fathers.

A recent study looked at the prevalence of parental support for meeting the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. The guidelines were developed to provide integrated recommendations for physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for Canadian children and youth, with the understanding that one component affects the other and are linked to health indicators and outcomes.

However, less than 20% of Canadian children aged 5 to 17 years adhere to the guidelines; the researchers said that understanding the factors that can facilitate effective interventions is of critical importance.

They hypothesized that sleep behavior was likely to have the highest support among parents. Besides sleep, however, the guidelines also discuss light physical activity (LPA), moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA), and sedentary behavior on health outcomes, so researchers also wanted to examine the interactive profiles of parental support across these 4 health behaviors.

A sample of Canadian parents (n = 1208) with children aged 5 to 17 years completed measures of the theory of planned behavior and support of the 4 child movement behaviors via online questionnaire. Interactive profiles of the 4 movement behaviors yielded 6 primary clusters and evidenced wide variation, from parents who supported none of these behaviors (19%) to parents who supported all 4 behaviors (14%).

Parents were asked about their behaviors related to the 4 areas. For example, sleep support included the items “encourage your child to sleep between 9-11 hours per night” and “enforce your child’s sleep schedule.” Screen time restriction support included the items “encourage your child to stop sitting and watching screens” and “enforce your child’s screen time schedule.”

Parents were also asked about the frequency they encourage participating in MVPA or sport, play outside with their child or do MVPA with their child, and transport their child to activities that involve MVPA or sports.

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger children had higher levels of parental support overall; the study also found that mothers provided more support than fathers.

Support for healthy sleep behaviors (9-11 hours for children aged 5-12 years) had the highest support, with 72.7% of parents reporting they supported this behavior on most days of the week.

Child and youth sleep behavior had the highest parental support (73%) and MVPA support had the lowest prevalence (23%).

Teenagers and fathers may represent key intervention targets to improve adherence to the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, the authors said.

“Intervention content may need to comprise the underlying foundations of attitude and perceived behavioral control to change parental support while considering the unique features of each health behavior to maximize related intervention effectiveness,” they concluded.


Rhodes RE, Spence JC, Berry T, et al. Parental support of the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth: prevalence and correlates [published online October 28, 2019]. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7744-7.

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