Family-based physical activity interventions and family functioning: A systematic review




Rhodes, Ryan E.
Hollman, Heather
Sui, Wuyou

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Family Process


Family physical activity (PA) can confer multiple health benefits, yet whether PA interventions affect general family functioning has not been appraised. The purpose of this review was to evaluate studies that have examined the effect of family PA interventions, where child PA was the focus of the intervention, on constructs of family functioning. Literature searches were concluded on January 11, 2022 using seven common databases. Eligible studies were in English, utilized a family PA intervention, and assessed a measure of family functioning as a study outcome. The initial search yielded 8413 hits, which was reduced to 20 independent PA interventions of mixed quality after screening for eligibility criteria. There was mixed evidence for whether family PA interventions affected overall family functioning; however, analyses of subdomains indicated that family cohesion is improved by PA interventions when children are in the early school years (aged 5–12). High-quality studies also showed an impact of family PA interventions on family organization. Targeted interventions at specific family subsystems (e.g., father–son, mother–daughter), characteristics (low-income, clinical populations, girls), and broad multibehavioral interventions may have the most reliable effects. Overall, the findings show that family PA interventions can promote family cohesion and organization, particularly among families with children in the early school years. Higher quality research, employing randomized trial designs and targeting specific intervention and sample characteristics (e.g., different clinical conditions, specific parent–child dyads), is recommended in order to better ascertain the effectiveness of these approaches.



adolescents, children, exercise, family cohesion, family organization


Rhodes, R. E., Hollman, H., & Sui, W. (2023). Family-based physical activity interventions and family functioning: A systematic review. Family Process, 00, 1-22.