"You should be more Active": Social control changes based on parents' desire


Social control (SC) is a regulatory influence used by one individual to get another to perform a desired behavior (Lewis & Butterfield, 2005). For physical activity (PA), parents appeared to use SC to prompt PA in response to a lapse by their children (Wilson & Spink, 2010). Given the importance of the behavior being ‘desired’, this study examined whether this desire would impact parents’ use of SC for PA on a week-to-week basis. Parents (N=55) completed two online surveys approximately one week apart. The average age of the children that parents reported was 6.7 years old (SD=4.3) with 22 boys and 33 girls.  In the initial survey, parents reported whether they wanted their child’s PA to increase (n=19), decrease (n=0) or stay the same (n=36). Parents also reported the SC they used during the past week (Wilson & Spink, 2010).  Social control was separated into three types: positive (encouraging), collaborative (active together) and negative (nagging). A 2 (time) by 2 (desire) MANOVA was performed to assess changes in the three types of SC. The MANOVA approached significance (p=.057) with a time by desire interaction emerging for positive SC (p=.012), and approaching significance for collaborative (p=.059) and negative SC (p=.087). For positive SC, parents who desired their child to stay the same their use of this type of SC (p=.02) while those who desired an increase in PA remained constant (p=.16). Similarly, for collaborative SC, those who desired their child to stay the same showed a decrease in SC use (p=.06) and parents who desired an increase remained constant (p=.32). No changes were evident with negative SC. These findings provide support for importance of parents’ desire for their child to perform PA and further supports the conceptualization of SC being exerted for ‘desired’ behaviors.