Background

Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as lack of physical activity, have been implicated in the development of pediatric obesity. Families face many challenges related to encouraging child engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviors but there is limited research identifying barriers. This project examined parent reported physical activity barriers in children with obesity and the potential impact of comorbid psychological disorders.

Methods

Participants include 970 caregivers of children 1 to 19 years of age attending a multidisciplinary pediatric obesity clinic (Child Mage = 12.06 years, Child MBMIz = 2.63, Child Race/Ethnicity = 64.1% African American/Black). Parents completed questionnaires assessing history of previously diagnosed psychological conditions and child engagement in physical activity per week, screen time per day, and barriers related to physical activity.

Results

27.7% of children with obesity were identified by parents as being previously diagnosed with a psychological disorder. Results revealed significant group differences in identified barriers related to cost (t (852) = 1.96, p = 0.05), disability or injury (t (861) = 3.55, p < 0.001), and tiredness (t (859) = 2.62, p < 0.01) with those in the Obesity + Psychological Disorder reporting more barriers than those in the Obesity only group. No other significant group differences in barriers or time in physical activity or screen time were found.

Conclusions

The findings from this project show that children with underlying psychological disorders experience more barriers related to engaging in physical activity; specifically related to cost, increased disability or injury, and increased tiredness. The findings should be taken into account during treatment to better identify alternate treatment recommendations and suggest the importance of screening for psychological disorders in pediatric obesity.