Supporting healthy lifestyle behaviours in families attending community playgroups: Parents' perceptions of facilitators and barriers

Andrea B. Fuller, Rebecca A. Byrne, Rebecca K. Golley, Stewart G. Trost

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Establishing healthy nutrition, activity, and sleep behaviours early in life is a key strategy in childhood obesity prevention. Parents are the primary influence on the development and establishment of obesity-related behaviours in young children. There is evidence that autonomy supporting parenting practices are crucial for the development of self-regulation and the internalisation of healthy behaviours in children. It is therefore imperative that parenting practices are targeted as part of an obesity prevention intervention. However, there is limited understanding of barriers and facilitators to parents using autonomy supporting parenting practices with their children aged 0-5 years. Therefore, the aim of the study was to identify barriers and facilitators to using autonomy supporting parenting practices. A secondary aim was to determine parent preferences in respect to an intervention program to be delivered in community playgroups. Methods: Parents were recruited through Playgroup Queensland (PGQ), a not-for-profit organisation in Brisbane, Australia, to attend a focus group during their usual playgroup session. The focus group interview guide was designed to promote discussion among the participants in respect to their shared experiences as parents of young children. The focus group transcripts were coded and analysed using qualitative content analysis. Five focus groups with parents (n = 30) were conducted in May 2018. Most of the participants were mothers [1], and the majority (76%) had a child at playgroup aged between 2 and 4 years. Results: The support and guidance received from other parents at playgroup was a facilitator to autonomy supporting parenting practices. Barriers included beliefs around the need to use rewards to encourage child eating, beliefs around the need for screens as babysitters, and feeling disempowered to change sleep behaviours. Parents were enthusiastic about a potential program that would leverage off the existing playgroup support networks, but they did not want to be "educated", or to lose their "playgroup time" to an intervention. Rather they wanted strategies and support to deal with the frustrations of food, screen and sleep parenting. Conclusion: These results will be used to inform the development of a childhood obesity prevention intervention to be delivered in a community playgroup setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1740
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • Early childhood
  • Feeding practices
  • Focus groups
  • Parenting
  • Physical activity
  • Screen time
  • Sleep


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