Comments on “Parental Influence on the Cardiovascular Health and Body Composition of Homeschool Children” by Wachob and Alman
PERSPECTIVES – News and Comments1
Brian D. Ray
National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon
Recent research has established factors that have a bearing on the health status of children. These include environmental and parental influence. Researchers Wachob and Alman (2015) think that since there has been a large increase of the number of home-educated children in the United States then “… it is imperative to begin investigating the impact that this unique environment has on the children’s health” (p. 2).
They inspected the cardiovascular health and body composition of homeschooling children to learn the impact that the parent-teacher has on these health indicators. The variables they considered include the children’s aerobic capacity (VO2 levels), Body Mass Index (BMI), and body fat percentage. Then the children’s results were then compared to their parent-teacher’s estimated VO2 levels, Body Mass Index (BMI), and body fat percentage.
The investigators sample involved “… 14 homeschooling families from western Pennsylvania, including 30 children ages 8-16 years, and each of the 14 family’s parent-teacher; which in this case were all mothers of the children. All participants were eligible to participate in the study because the children are educated in the home and the primary caregiver is the teacher. The majority of children participants were females (53.3%) and in the 10-11 (36.4%) age group” (p. 2-3).
Children’s fitness levels were determined by a test that “… requires children to run a series of 20-meter laps to a timed cadence with the speed increasing each minute until the child cannot complete the lap in the designated time” (p. 3). Parents’ fitness levels were established by use of a single-stage treadmill walking test to measure their aerobic capacity.
“Body composition was determined by calculating height and weight ratios for both the parent and child participants, being reported as body mass index (BMI)” and body composition was also established by measuring body fat percentage of both the parent and child participants using a handheld bioelectrical impedance method (BIA) (p. 3).
All of the children had aerobic capacity (VO2) levels within the healthy range for their respective age groups. The mean VO2 scores for all female age groups were on the lower side of what is considered to be the acceptable healthy range. All but one of the male age groups were in the upper half of the acceptable healthy range. This suggests that homeschool boys have a higher aerobic threshold than do the girls.
A moderate relationship (r = .667, p < .01) was found when comparing the parent-teacher’s aerobic capacity to their children. The researchers said that this suggests that aerobic capacity of the parent-teacher is “casually” associated with the aerobic capacity of their children.
About one-third of the children were considered either overweight (16.7%) or obese (16.7), based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) BMI chart for children. Nearly half of the parent-teachers (42.9%) were in the normal BMI weight status. Half (50%) of the parent-teachers were in the overweight category; none were in the obese weight status category. “The relationship between the parent-teachers’ BMI and their respective children were moderate (r = .663, p < .01); suggesting that the weight status, or BMI, of the parent-teacher is casually associated with their children’s weight status” (p. 4).
Wachob and Alman wisely pointed out some limitations of their study. For example, it included a relatively small sample size, so the results cannot be generalized. Another limitation of this study includes the fact that it “… focused on a group of homeschoolers who participated in a weekly physical education program at a local university. This demonstrates that these families have an established interest in physical activity and health based on their voluntary participation in a program of this nature” (p. 5).
Their study did find, however, that the primary caregiver, or parent-teacher, is a “moderate variable” for predicting homeschool children’s health indicators. This finding supports the literature on this relationship. The researchers propose that future studies “… should seek to establish more environmental variables unique to the homeschooling population (i.e. daily schedule, mealtimes, social influence, etc…) that may contribute to the overall health of the children enrolled in this type of education” (p. 5).
The focus and findings of this study indicate that homeschooling has grown to be such a sizeable population that it is attracting scholars from an increasingly wide array of disciplines (Ray, 2013). Future research will shed light on more advantages or disadvantages of parent-led home-based education. They also indicate that parents should strive to be good role models to their children regarding the care of their bodies and physical health. Research like this once again confirms that parents play a crucial role in most aspects of their children’s lives.
Ray, Brian D. (2013). Homeschooling associated with beneficial learner and societal outcomes but educators do not promote it. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 324-341.
Wachob, David A., Alman, Robert E. (2015). Parental influence on the cardiovascular health and body composition of homeschool children. International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, 8(3):305-311.
- The “Perspectives – News and Comments” section of this journal consists of articles that have not undergone peer review.