Samantha Moss

ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology



First Advisor

Xiangli Gu


Engaging in adequate (180 minutes per day) physical activity (PA) is an important component in positioning a young child towards optimal health. PA engagement has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, developmental outcomes (i.e., motor, social, and cognitive development), and weight status. Even with the known benefits PA posits, many young children do not receive enough PA during their day. More specifically, children that are of low socio-economic status (SES) pose a greater risk for inactivity, excessive sedentary behavior, and developmental delays. Knowing these disparities exist, even starting in the early childhood years, children’s PA and development remain complex. Using the social-ecological model as a foundation, uncovering these underlying determinants of children’s activity and development is needed. This dissertation will add to further reducing childhood disparities by systematically examining the available home environment literature to provide actionable strategies and recommendations for parents, practitioners, and community stakeholders, and by investigating the role of parenting practices and environment on PA and development in early childhood. Study 1 comprehensively examined and analyzed the effects of home/family- and community-based interventions on weight status (i.e., body mass index [BMI]), PA (i.e., moderate-to-vigorous PA [MVPA], sedentary behavior) and developmental outcomes (i.e., FMS) in early childhood (2-5 years old). After searching four electronic databases, 24 studies were retained that investigated outcomes relevant to weight status (i.e., BMI), physical activity, sedentary behavior, and/or motor proficiency in home/family, or community settings in 2-5 year old children. Distributing educational material to parents/families, maintaining direct contact with parents, and fostering community engagement were all identified as effective strategies to promote PA, reduce sedentary behavior, maintain healthy weight status, and enhance motor skills in children. Study 2 employed a cross-sectional approach to uncover environmental determinants towards childhood PA and development and investigate SES disparities. There were 138 toddlers (Mage=3.87±.88 years; 79 girls; 45 Hispanic) that were recruited from Northern Texas. Children’s PA was objectively measured by wearing an accelerometer (GT9X ActiGraph) for 7 consecutive days. Parent’s reported children’s PA, sedentary behavior, developmental outcomes (i.e., communication, gross and fine motor skills, problem solving, and personal social), PA parenting practices (i.e., encouraging or discouraging behaviors), home environment (i.e., affordances in the home environment that facilitate motor development), and physical activity neighborhood environment (i.e., physical environment, recreation facilities, and neighborhood safety) were assessed through validated questionnaires. Results showed parenting practices to emerge as a significant predictor towards parent-reported PA, accelerometer-measured sedentary behavior, and problem solving. PA neighborhood environment and home environment were significant predictors towards problem solving. There were no observed SES differences in PA or developmental outcomes. Overall, almost 100% of children met the PA guideline, however no children met the sedentary guideline (<1 hour per day) according to the accelerometer measures. On the other hand, via parent-report survey, over 50% of children were considered active and approximately 1/3 of children engaged in less than 1 hour of screen-based sedentary behavior. Only 66.7% of boys are typically developing in fine motor and problem solving and 75% or less toddlers are typically developing in all categories. These findings underscore the importance of enabling a supportive home environment through parenting practices and adequate outside space to potentially enhance activity and development in early childhood, regardless of SES.


Physical activity, Child development, Socio-economic status, Motor skills, Home environment, Built environment, Parenting practices


Kinesiology | Life Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Available for download on Wednesday, August 14, 2024

Included in

Kinesiology Commons