Positive Development in Children and the Precursors of Healthy Life-Styles: The Role of Eating Regularity and Level of Leisure Activity


The two sides of children positive development, that is physical and psychological health, have been most often investigated separately. We explored the relationships between not being overweight, respecting relational rules, regularity of eating behavior (eating breakfast) and involvement in active (e.g. playing in team sport) or sedentary (e.g. playing at videogames) leisure activities shared with friends. The study was conducted among 272 Italian children (52% female; M age = 6.85 yrs) using a multi-informant design (children, parents and teachers of physical activity). Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that regularity of eating breakfast (informed by parents) was associated to lower levels of Body Mass Index (BMI) values (objectively measured) in girls. Involvement in sedentary leisure activity with friends (informed by children) was negatively associated with respecting relational rules (evaluated by teachers of physical activity) in boys. Thus, more or less active leisure activity and more or less healthy eating behaviour have some potential relevance for present and future general adjustment of boys and girls, and not only for their physical condition. Implications for educational interventions are discussed.

Share and Cite:

Ciairano, S. , Bardaglio, G. , Rabaglietti, E. & Vacirca, M. (2010). Positive Development in Children and the Precursors of Healthy Life-Styles: The Role of Eating Regularity and Level of Leisure Activity. Psychology, 1, 151-158. doi: 10.4236/psych.2010.13020.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] W. Damon, “What is Positive Youth Development?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 591, No. 1, 2004, pp. 13-24.
[2] S. F. Hamilton, M. A. Hamilton and K. Pittman, “Princi-ples for Youth Development,” In: S. F. Hamilton and M.A. Hamilton, Ed., The Youth Development Handbook.Coming of Age in American Communities, Sage Publica-tions, Inc., Thousand Oaks, 2004, pp. 3-22.
[3] C. Peterson, “Positive Social Science,” The Annals of theAmerican Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol.591, No. 1, 2004, pp. 186-201.
[4] World Health Organization, “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health,” WHO, Genève, 2004.
[5] G. S. Berenson, S. R. Scrinivasan, W. Bao, W. P. New-man, R. E. Tracy and W. A. Wattigney, “Association be-tween Multiple Cardiovascolar Risk Factors and Athero-sclerosis in Children and Young Adults. The Bogalusa Heart Study,” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 338, No. 23, 1998, pp. 1650-1656.
[6] M. Giletta, R. H. J. Scholte, R. C. M. E. Engels and J. Larsen, “Bullying Involvement among High Weight Status Adolescents,” Submitted at Journal of Adolescence.
[7] R. Jessor, J. E. Donovan and F. M. Costa, “Beyond Ado-lescence–Problem Behavior and Young Adult Develop-ment,” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991.
[8] R. Jessor, M. S. Turbin, F. M. Costa, Q. Dong, H. Zhang and C. Wang, “Adolescent Problem Behavior in China and the United States: A Cross-National Study of Psy-chosocial Protective Factors,” Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2003, pp. 329-360.
[9] R. W. Larson, “Toward a Psychology of Positive Youth Development,” American Psychologist, Vol. 55, No. 1, 2000, pp. 170-183.
[10] R. K. Silbereisen, K. Eyferth and G. Rudinger, “Devel-opment as Action in Context,” Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1986.
[11] D. Hayes and C. E. Ross, “Body and Mind: The Effect of Exercise, Overweight, and Physical Health on Psycho-logical Well-Being,” Journal of Health and Social Be-havior, Vol. 27, No. 4, 1986, pp. 387-400.
[12] R. W. Larson, “Youth Organizations, Hobbies, and Sports as Developmental Contexts,” In: R. K. Silbereisen and E. Todt, Ed., Adolescence in Context: The Interplay of Fam-ily, School, Peers, and Work in Adjustment, Springer- Verlag, New York, 1994, pp. 46-65.
[13] J. L. Mahoney and H. Stattin, “Leisure Activities and Adolescent Antisocial Behavior: The Role of Structure and Social Context,” Journal of Adolescence, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2000, pp. 113-127.
[14] A. Bandura, “Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control,” Free-man Publishers, New York, 1997.
[15] A. J. Huebner and J. A. Mancini, “Shaping Structured Out-of-School Time Use among Youth: the Effect of Self, Family and Friend System,” Journal of Youth and Ado-lescence, Vol. 32, No. 6, 2003, pp. 453-463.
[16] J. L. Fraser-Thomas, J. C?té and J. Deakin, “Youth Sport Programs: An Avenue to Foster Positive Youth Devel-opment,” Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2005, pp. 19-40.
[17] B. J. Bredemeier and D. L. Shields, “Moral Growth through Physical Activity: a Structural Developmental Approach,” In: D. R. Gould and M. R. Weiss, Ed., Advances in Pae-diatric Sport Sciences, Human Kinetics Publishers, Cham-paign, Vol. 2, 1987, pp. 143-165.
[18] S. Bonino, E. Cattelino and S. Ciairano, “Adolescents and Risk. Behaviors, Functions and Protective Factors,” Springer Verlag, Milan, 2005.
[19] R. J. Brustad, “Attraction to Physical Activity in Urban Schoolchildren: Parental Socialization and Gender Influ-ences,” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Vol. 67, No. 3, 1996, pp. 316-323.
[20] J. Colwell, C. Grady and S. Rhaiti, “Computer Games, Self-Esteem, and Gratification of Needs in Adolescents,” Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1995, pp. 195-206.
[21] [21] National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), “Annuario Statis- tico Italiano 2007 (Italian Statistical Yearbook 2007),” ISTAT, Rome, 2007.
[22] E. E. Maccoby and C. N. Jacklin, “Sex Differences in Aggression: A Rejoinder and Reprise,” Child Develop-ment, Vol. 51, No. 4, 1980, pp. 964-980.
[23] K. Bj?rkqvist, “Sex Differences in Physical, Verbal, and Indirect Aggression: A Review of Recent Research,” Sex Role, Vol. 30, No. 3-4, 1994, pp. 1573-2762.
[24] A. D. Pellegrini, “Affiliative and Aggressive Dimensions of Dominance and Possible Functions during Early Ado-lescence,” Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2002, pp. 21-31.
[25] S. Harter, C. Stocker and N. Robinson, “The Perceived Directionality of the Link between Approval and Self- Worth: the Liabilities of a Looking Glass. Self-Orienta- tion among Adolescents,” Journal of Research on Ado-lescence, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1996, pp. 285-308.
[26] K. K. Davison, M. B. Earnest and L. L. Birch, “Participa-tion in Aesthetic Sports and Girls’ Weight Concerns at Ages 5 and 7,” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2002, pp. 312-317.

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.