Enjoyment and self-efficacy for physical activity as mediators of the friendship network and children's physical activity


The Youth Physical Activity Promotion (YPAP) model proposes youth physical activity (PA) as determined by predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing factors. Consistent with the YPAP model, this study examined whether enjoyment and barrier self-efficacy for PA mediate associations between aspects of the friendship network and pedometer-measured PA in grade five children, and differences by gender. Participants were grade five students participating in a school in the Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating in Schools (APPLE Schools) in 2013. Students wore piezo-electric time-stamped pedometers for nine consecutive days, nominated up to 10 close friends in their school and grade, and completed survey questions on enjoyment of PA, barrier self-efficacy for PA, and social support for PA from friends. Ego-network variables were created from the friendship nominations, including friend PA and social status (i.e., number of incoming friendships). Using structural equation modeling we observed friend support for PA, social status, and friend PA to be directly associated with PA in males and enjoyment to mediate the association between friend support and ego PA. Only friend PA was directly associated with PA in females with no identified mediators. This research provides support for the utility of the peer influence (reinforcing factor) and enjoyment (predisposing factor) components of the YPAP model in the context of children's PA and suggest that friends are important influence agents on the PA of children in late childhood.

Acknowledgments: We thank all of the students, parents and schools for their participation in the APPLE Schools evaluation, and the evaluation assistants and school health facilitators for their contributions to data collection. Thank you to Wendy Davis and Erin Faught for their work in coordinating the evaluation, Pamela Bailey for organizing logistics, and Connie Lu for data management.