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Associations between sex-typed behaviour at age 3½ and levels and patterns of physical activity at age 12: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children


Background Differences in sex-typed behaviour, including physical activity, are already apparent among preschool children.

Purpose To examine the associations between early sex-typed behaviour and later physical activity.

Methods Children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were asked to wear an accelerometer for 7 days at age 12. Physical activity outcomes were counts per minute (counts/min) and minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Sex-typed behaviour was assessed using the Pre-School Activities Inventory (PSAI) at age 3½. Multivariable regression was used to examine the association between PSAI and physical activity, separately for boys and girls.

Results Accelerometer data were collected from 2593 boys and 2858 girls, mean (SD) age 11.8 (0.23) years. A one point higher PSAI score (mean (SD) 61.7 (8.7) and 37.0 (9.1) for boys and girls, respectively) was associated with a higher level of physical activity (counts/min) of 2.3 (95% CI 0.9 to 3.7) in boys and 0.7 (95% CI −0.1 to 1.4) in girls. This is equivalent to a higher counts/min of 56.7 (95% CI 23.1 to 90.3) and 16.6 (95% CI −2.4 to 35.5) for boys and girls, respectively, for a higher PSAI score equivalent to the difference between boys and girls (24.7). Results for MVPA were similar.

Conclusions Higher male-typical behaviour in early childhood is associated with higher physical activity in early adolescence, particularly in boys.

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