Physical inactivity is a leading cause of mortality worldwide. Many patterns of physical activity involvement are established early in life. To date, the role of easily identifiable early-life individual predictors of PA, such as childhood temperament, remains relatively unexplored. Here, we tested whether childhood temperamental activity level, high intensity pleasure, low intensity pleasure, and surgency predicted engagement in physical activity (PA) patterns 11 years later in adolescence.
Data came from a longitudinal community study (N = 206 participants, 53% females, 70% Caucasian). Parents reported their children's temperamental characteristics using the Child Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ) when children were 4 & 5 years old. Approximately 11 years later, adolescents completed self-reports of PA using the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Ordered logistic regression, ordinary least squares linear regression, and Zero-inflated Poisson regression models were used to predict adolescent PA from childhood temperament. Race, socioeconomic status, and adolescent body mass index were used as covariates.
Males with greater childhood temperamental activity level engaged in greater adolescent PA volume (B = .42, SE = .13) and a 1 SD difference in childhood temperamental activity level predicted 29.7% more strenuous adolescent PA per week. Males' high intensity pleasure predicted higher adolescent PA volume (B = .28, SE = .12). Males' surgency positively predicted more frequent PA activity (B = .47, SE = .23, OR = 1.61, 95% CI: 1.02, 2.54) and PA volume (B = .31, SE = .12). No predictions from females' childhood temperament to later PA engagement were identified.
Childhood temperament may influence the formation of later PA habits, particularly in males. Boys with high temperamental activity level, high intensity pleasure, and surgency may directly seek out pastimes that involve PA. Indirectly, temperament may also influence caregivers' perceptions of optimal activity choices for children. Understanding how temperament influences the development of PA patterns has the potential to inform efforts aimed at promoting long-term PA engagement and physical health.