Physical and social environmental characteristics of physical activity for Mexican-origin children: examining differences between school year and summer perceptions. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Colonias are substandard residential areas along the U.S.-Mexico border. Families of Mexican-origin living in colonias face health burdens characterized by environmental and socioeconomic hardships. Mexican Americans and low-income families, including colonias children, do not frequently participate in physical activity despite the known link to disease risk reduction. For colonias children, schools are the most commonly reported location for physical activity. School closures and extreme temperatures during summer months create a need to explore seasonal differences in environmental supports and barriers in this population. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of seasonality on perceived environmental barriers, opportunities, and social support for physical activity among colonias children. As a secondary aim, mother-child discordance for each factor was analyzed. METHODS: Promotora-researchers recruited mother-child dyads (n=101 dyads, n=202 participants) from colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. Mothers and children were separately administered surveys at two time points to capture perceived barriers, opportunities, and social support for physical activity (school-year: February-May; summertime: July-August). Summative scores for each outcome were calculated and three multilevel longitudinal models for continuous outcomes were examined; children were nested within households. Mother-child discordance was measured using Cohen's Kappa statistic. RESULTS: Physical activity barriers and environmental opportunities (household and neighborhood) increased from school-year to summer by 1.16 and 2.83 points respectively (p0.01), after adjusting for covariates. Significant predictors of increased barriers included household income of >$900/month and having more household members. Children of mothers with significant others who were employed part-time or full-time saw significant decreases in barriers. Mother-child agreement of barriers, environmental opportunities, and social support across seasons was slight to fair (range: median =0.047 to =0.262). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a complex relationship between dimensions of economic hardship (employment status, household income, etc) and perceived opportunities and barriers of children's physical activity engagement during the school-year and summer. In this study, both barriers and opportunities increased from school-year to summer, further demonstrating that interactions among these characteristics need to be better understood and addressed when considering physical activity initiatives for colonias and other Mexican-American children, specifically during summer when school-based physical activity resources are unavailable.

published proceedings

  • BMC Public Health

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Walsh, S. M., Sharkey, J. R., Morgan, G. B., & Nalty, C. C.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Umstattd Meyer, M RenĂ©e||Walsh, Shana M||Sharkey, Joseph R||Morgan, Grant B||Nalty, Courtney C

publication date

  • September 2014