Temperament Is Associated With Outdoor Free Play in Young Children: A TARGet Kids! Study

Published:August 22, 2017DOI:



      Outdoor free play is important for preschoolers' physical activity, health, and development. Certain temperamental characteristics are associated with obesity, nutrition, and sedentary behaviors in preschoolers, but the relationship between temperament and outdoor play has not been examined. This study examined whether there is an association between temperament and outdoor play in young children.


      Healthy children aged 1 to 5 years recruited to The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!), a community-based primary care research network, from July 2008 to September 2013 were included. Parent-reported child temperament was assessed using the Childhood Behavior Questionnaire. Outdoor free play and other potential confounding variables were assessed through validated questionnaires. Multivariable linear regression was used to determine the association between temperament and outdoor play, adjusted for potential confounders.


      There were 3393 children with data on outdoor play. The association between negative affectivity and outdoor play was moderated by sex; in boys, for every 1-point increase in negative affectivity score, mean outdoor play decreased by 4.7 minutes per day. There was no significant association in girls. Surgency was associated with outdoor play; for every 1-point increase in surgency/extraversion, outdoor play increased by 4.6 minutes per day.


      Young children's temperamental characteristics were associated with their participation in outdoor free play. Consideration of temperament could enhance interventions and strategies to increase outdoor play in young children. Longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate the relationship between children's early temperament and physical activity.


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