Given the prevalence of obesity among Latino children , and the protective effects of PA on obesity  and other health outcomes [60, 61], understanding how parents influence their children’s PA is critical to promote healthy lifestyles among families. Valid and reliable measures of PA parenting practices are needed to fully investigate such influences and assess the effects of family based PA interventions. This study demonstrated moderate-to-good factorial validity, moderate-to-excellent test-retest reliabilities, and acceptable internal consistency reliabilities of a new parent-report instrument with two independent scales for parenting practices that influence preschooler’s PA: the Encouraging and Discouraging PPAPP. One of the scales included parenting practices that encourage Latino preschool-aged children to be physically active. The other scale included parenting practices that discourage them from being physically active comprised of four factors: promote screen time, promote inactivity, psychological control, and restriction for safety concerns.
Although the existing literature on PA parenting practices has focused on practices intended to positively impact mostly older children’s PA [21, 62], this study demonstrated that among Latino preschool children, parenting practices can also discourage PA, as indicated by correlations of both the Promote Inactivity (p < .10) and the Promote Screen Time (p < .01) subscales with children’s objectively measured PA. Gubbels et al. have previously demonstrated that, among a Dutch sample of 5 year olds, parental restriction of sedentary time (measured by a 6-item non-validated subscale) was associated with parent reports of lower child PA . However, to our knowledge this is the first PA parenting scale that has included a subscale to assess whether parents promoted inactive transport among children, such as pushing them in a stroller or carrying them when they could have walked. Active transportation has been associated with adolescents’, but not children’s, PA . The initial exploratory analyses presented here suggest that parenting to promote inactive transport may be associated with less LPA among Latino preschoolers and warrants further investigation.
Also new in this PA parenting scale is the construct of psychological control by parents which may undermine or inhibit children’s PA. The construct of psychological control has been dominant in the developmental psychology parenting literature for decades  and suggested for PA parenting , but has not been assessed in the PA parenting literature. For this instrument, psychological control was created based on qualitative research with Latino parents who reported they believed that parents who criticize or insult their child, discipline their child for being active, or restrict their child’s activities for fear of them getting hurt tend to discourage their child from engaging in PA . It was found to be positively associated with Latino preschooler’s moderate PA and negatively associated with their sedentary time. In this cross-sectional study we cannot delineate whether psychological control causes young children to be more active, or whether parents whose children are more active are more likely to use psychological control.
The fourth sub-scale for Discouraging PPAPP was restriction for safety concerns. A systematic review demonstrated that neighborhood safety was associated with children’s PA ; and it is likely that this relationship is in part mediated by parents’ concerns about the safety of the environment in which they allow their child to play. The new subscale of Restriction for Safety Concerns will allow further exploration of this hypothesis. Future research in larger and/or longitudinal samples will need to identify whether these constructs are important social determinants of children’s PA.
The discouraging subscales had slightly lower mean scores compared to the encouraging scale or single items (Table 6), which may suggest that parents are less likely to use parenting practices that discourage PA, but when used they have an important negative impact on children’s PA. Alternatively, parents may be less likely to self-report using parenting practices that discourage their child from being active.
Parenting practices that encourage child PA included one subscale for parental engagement for child PA that represented parenting practices that are responsive and provide structure to support PA . Previous work in developmental psychology has demonstrated that parental involvement or engagement in children’s schooling mediated the positive effects of authoritative parenting on children’s school success . Similarly, parental engagement or involvement with young children’s PA may positively influence children to be physically active. The addition of two single items to the encouraging PA parenting practice scale suggests that these two items represent additional latent constructs that warrant further development with additional items. These two items [not register child for sport/dance due to lack of money (reverse coded); and have outdoor toys available for child] may be markers of parenting practices as well as living conditions, such as family income and/or type of residence. As such they may not represent actual parenting practices, but rather socio-economic factors that influence parenting behaviors.
This study has many strengths: the systemic development of the PA parenting practice scales were based on a proposed theoretical framework for PA parenting , qualitative studies with Latino parents of preschoolers ; extensive psychometric analyses of the new PPAPP scales were conducted; and the criterion validity was based on objectively-measured child PA. However, there are also limitations. The PPAPP is a self-report instrument and is therefore prone to reporting biases, including socially desirable responses. However, self-report instruments are needed to investigate the influence of parents on children’s PA in larger samples, since direct observations are costly and often impractical. Additional studies to assess the convergent validity of this instrument with parent behaviors using direct observations would help strengthen its validity. The parents completed the PPAPP in English or Spanish, but the sample size was not large enough to look at the factorial invariance separately for the two languages. Instead, Cronbach’s alphas were assessed separately for those who completed the questionnaire in English or Spanish. Some variations in Cronbach’s alphas were found with lower scores among some of the Spanish language sub-scales for Discouraging PA. It is possible this is due to differences in the robustness of those subscales by language. However, educational attainment was significantly lower among those who completed the questionnaire in Spanish than those who completed it in English. Participants with low educational attainment may have found it more difficult to respond to some of the items. Among older samples of children, mothers and fathers have different influences on their children’s PA [14, 20], suggesting their influence should be assessed separately. However, the scales should be developed for use with both mothers and fathers, which is why the samples were combined in this developmental study. Only a subsample of children wore the accelerometers which limited our ability to detect correlations of parenting practices subscales with children’s PA.
Future research should assess the predictive validity of the PPAPP on Latino preschool children’s PA in larger samples and the potential different influence by mothers and fathers on their same and different gendered children [14, 20]. In addition, the PPAPP instrument should be refined by expanding the single items in the Encourage PA scale to multiple-item subscale. The psychometrics and predictive validity of this scale should also be cross-validated in another Latino sample and assessed in other populations, such as Non-Hispanic white, African American, and Asian, to assess its usefulness for assessing PA parenting practices regardless of race or ethnicity.