Guidelines recommend children and young people participate in at least 60 min of physical activity (PA) every day, however, findings from UK studies show PA levels of children vary across ethnic groups. Since parents play an instrumental role in determining children's PA levels, this article aims to explore parental views of children's PA in a multi-ethnic sample living in a large city in the North-West of England.
Six single-ethnic focus groups were conducted with 36 parents of school-aged children (4 to 16 years) with a predominantly low socio-economic status (SES). Parents self-identified their ethnic background as Asian Bangladeshi (n = 5), Black African (n = 4), Black Somali (n = 7), Chinese (n = 6), White British (n = 8) and Yemeni (n = 6). Focus group topics included understanding of PA, awareness of PA guidelines, knowledge of benefits associated with PA and perceived influences on PA in childhood. Data were analysed thematically using QSR NVivo 9.0.
Parents from all ethnic groups valued PA and were aware of its benefits, however they lacked awareness of PA recommendations, perceived school to be the main provider for children's PA, and reported challenges in motivating children to be active. At the environmental level, barriers to PA included safety concerns, adverse weather, lack of resources and lack of access. Additional barriers were noted for ethnic groups from cultures that prioritised educational attainment over PA (Asian Bangladeshi, Chinese, Yemeni) and with a Muslim faith (Asian Bangladeshi, Black Somali, Yemeni), who reported a lack of culturally appropriate PA opportunities for girls.
Parents from multi-ethnic groups lacked awareness of children's PA recommendations and faced barriers to promoting children's PA out of school, with certain ethnic groups facing additional barriers due to cultural and religious factors. It is recommended children's PA interventions address influences at all socio-ecological levels, and account for differences between ethnic groups.