fbpx

Exploring Early Childhood Movement: Insights from “Building Better Days” Mixed Methods Research

Exploring Early Childhood Movement: Insights from “Building Better Days” Mixed Methods Research

May. 9, 2024
Lumivero
Podcast episode 63 Exploring Early Childhood Movement Insights from Building Better Days Mixed Methods Research
Published: May. 9, 2024

Hear how our 2022 Early Career Researcher recipient used research funding to support an innovative mixed methods research project tracking physical activity in young children.

Children under five can keep their parents and caretakers busy. But for all their energy, it’s possible that they aren’t getting the physical activity they need for healthy growth – or forming healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood. Dr. Xanne Janssen, Senior Teaching Fellow in Physical Activity and Health at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, wanted to understand what kind of movement habits young children in Scotland were developing – particularly those from low-income communities.

Her innovative mixed methods studies approach won her a Lumivero Early Career Researchers Grant, previously QSR International, in 2022. This grant provided Dr. Janssen with $25,000 in research funding support over two years. In episode 63 of Between the Data, Dr. Stacy Penna talked to Dr. Janssen about her approach to tracking movement in a difficult-to-reach population of children – and how NVivo helped her organize, analyze, and visualize the data she gathered through qualitative and quantitative methods for her health services research.

20k grant for early career researchers banner

What the Building Better Days Project Investigated

Physical activity has important implications for lifelong health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are insufficiently physically active face a higher risk of sudden death than those who engage in regular exercise or physical work. Evidence also shows that physical activity correlates with improvement in symptoms of depression and cognitive function. Dr. Janssen decided to recruit families of 3- and 4-year-old children and measure their daily activity against WHO guidelines. WHO’s physical activity recommendations for children between the ages of 3 and 4 are:

  • 180 minutes of active play time per day
  • No more than 60 minutes of screen time per day
  • 10–13 hours of sleep per day, including naps

Dr. Janssen pointed out that children in lower-income areas had higher obesity rates than those in wealthy areas. The Building Better Days study aimed to understand how active children are and what decisions parents are making when organizing their young children’s lives. The research study’s goal was to identify any barriers that might hinder lower-income families’ ability to keep children active.

Mixed Methods Research Design with Help from Lumivero Research Funding

The research approach included two different methods for data collection and analysis and was built around the model of an asynchronous remote community (ARC). An ARC is an online focus group with no set meeting times – ideal for working with a distributed population that may have difficulty meeting in person. Parents who agreed to participate in the study were given an ActiGraph accelerometer for their children to wear that would track their movement and sleep duration.

Then the parents would contribute to discussions via a closed Facebook group, helping to provide qualitative context for the accelerometer’s quantitative data. Dr. Janssen would produce visualizations of the data collection from the accelerometer for the parents so they could understand how their children measured up against the WHO’s daily activity guidelines.

In the podcast, Dr. Janssen revealed that one of the more challenging aspects of getting the project off the ground – and the one she would approach differently next time – was recruitment. At first her team distributed flyers at nursery schools, but participation lagged until she began to hold face-to-face presentations. “People like to see your face,” she noted, especially when it comes to research that will involve their children.

Using NVivo for Qualitative Thematic Analysis

This project generated both qualitative and quantitative data. For the qualitative data, Dr. Janssen and her team opted to use a thematic analysis approach developed by Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke and described in a 2006 paper for Qualitative Research in Psychology.

“What most people . . . know NVivo for is the coding,” said Dr. Janssen. “It makes it super simple to keep track of all your coding and to narrow it all down.” Dr. Janssen was also impressed by NVivo’s ability to create cases for each study participant. “[T]hat was really useful when we were working with those that met the guidelines versus those that didn't meet the guidelines. Being able to categorize them that way and then asking NVivo, ‘Okay, now show me what's coming out [thematically] in each of these groups,’ has been super helpful.”

Learn more about Dr. Braun’s and Dr. Clarke’s approach in our webinar Introduction to Thematic Analysis, and catch Dr. Braun’s keynote presentation at the 2024 Lumivero Conference.

Research Study Results from Conducting Mixed Methods Research

Quantitative data from the accelerometers showed that while most children were getting enough sleep during the night, very few of them were meeting physical activity guidelines. Additionally, most children were engaging with screens for much more than the recommended maximum of 60 minutes per day. Through her ARC, Dr. Janssen was able to glean insights into the barriers that prevented parents from building more activity into their children’s days.

First, there was the weather: Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is prone to rainy, blustery weather. Getting outside during the winter months can be particularly challenging: while the UK doesn’t often experience snow or extreme cold, its northern latitude means that there can be just seven hours of daylight in December. Active rainy-day options such as indoor play facilities or swimming pools were often unavailable to the families in the study. Either such amenities did not exist in their communities, or their cost made them unaffordable.

Next, Dr. Janssen  found that many parents were not aware of current research around the impact of excessive screen time on brain development. Some parents expressed a belief that screens gave children access to educational videos or games. Others had grown up with video games themselves and did not see the harm in letting their kids play them – or in playing along with them.

Finally, there were policy issues that impacted children’s access to safe physical activity. For example, some children’s nursery schools were not taking their classes outside during the day, even though this is required by law. Furthermore, according to the BBC, Scotland is currently facing a budget shortfall of £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion). This is likely to result in further cuts to early years programs, as well as public transportation and other programs that support low-income families.

Recommendations for Improvement

Dr. Janssen’s team has taken a multi-pronged approach to helping families understand how to help their young children become more active during the day. First, she says she has tried to encourage a shift in thinking about the weather: sometimes it’s worth going out in the rain to get a half-hour of activity, even if it means wet clothes. Next, she has provided parents with research about the impact of screen time on brain development to help them better understand how even educational content should be limited to the recommended 60 minutes.

The heavier lift is the policy side. “I got quite annoyed when I heard parents speak about having to change nursery [schools], because the nursery [school] isn’t taking kids outside,” Dr. Janssen said. She explained that the government needs to do more to enforce activity guidelines for early-years programs and to improve its support for low-income parents. Providing free or low-cost indoor activities for young children – or developing policies that help parents spend more time with their children outside of working hours – can make a difference to the health of these young people in the future.

Where to Find Dr. Janssen’s Research

So far, Dr. Janssen has produced a paper about the research methods used in the study. Barriers and Facilitators of Physical Activity, Sedentary and Sleep Behaviours in 3 to 4-Year-Old Children from Low-Income Families: A Study Protocol appeared in the Journal of Activity, Sedentary and Sleep Behaviors in November 2023. Dr. Janssen is in the process of producing a final paper for publication later this year. She’ll also present her qualitative and quantitative research at the 2024 Lumivero Conference.

Learn more about this research by listening to the full podcast episode.

Fund Your Research – Apply for Lumivero’s 2024 Early Career Researcher Grant!

Lumivero’s Research Grant for Early Career Researchers will award $20,000 in funding over two years to an early career researcher making a positive impact in the world with a research project that uses NVivo, Citavi, or XLSTAT, shows promise and a contribution to knowledge, and a commitment to our theme: Research Excellence that Impacts Our World.

LEARN MORE

Use Mixed Methods Design in Your Research with NVivo QDA Software

Do more with your quantitative and qualitative data and answer your research questions by using NVivo, the leading qualitative data analysis software (QDA software) for your mixed methods approach.

NVivo Demo Request

Hear how our 2022 Early Career Researcher recipient used research funding to support an innovative mixed methods research project tracking physical activity in young children.

Children under five can keep their parents and caretakers busy. But for all their energy, it’s possible that they aren’t getting the physical activity they need for healthy growth – or forming healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood. Dr. Xanne Janssen, Senior Teaching Fellow in Physical Activity and Health at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, wanted to understand what kind of movement habits young children in Scotland were developing – particularly those from low-income communities.

Her innovative mixed methods studies approach won her a Lumivero Early Career Researchers Grant, previously QSR International, in 2022. This grant provided Dr. Janssen with $25,000 in research funding support over two years. In episode 63 of Between the Data, Dr. Stacy Penna talked to Dr. Janssen about her approach to tracking movement in a difficult-to-reach population of children – and how NVivo helped her organize, analyze, and visualize the data she gathered through qualitative and quantitative methods for her health services research.

20k grant for early career researchers banner

What the Building Better Days Project Investigated

Physical activity has important implications for lifelong health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are insufficiently physically active face a higher risk of sudden death than those who engage in regular exercise or physical work. Evidence also shows that physical activity correlates with improvement in symptoms of depression and cognitive function. Dr. Janssen decided to recruit families of 3- and 4-year-old children and measure their daily activity against WHO guidelines. WHO’s physical activity recommendations for children between the ages of 3 and 4 are:

  • 180 minutes of active play time per day
  • No more than 60 minutes of screen time per day
  • 10–13 hours of sleep per day, including naps

Dr. Janssen pointed out that children in lower-income areas had higher obesity rates than those in wealthy areas. The Building Better Days study aimed to understand how active children are and what decisions parents are making when organizing their young children’s lives. The research study’s goal was to identify any barriers that might hinder lower-income families’ ability to keep children active.

Mixed Methods Research Design with Help from Lumivero Research Funding

The research approach included two different methods for data collection and analysis and was built around the model of an asynchronous remote community (ARC). An ARC is an online focus group with no set meeting times – ideal for working with a distributed population that may have difficulty meeting in person. Parents who agreed to participate in the study were given an ActiGraph accelerometer for their children to wear that would track their movement and sleep duration.

Then the parents would contribute to discussions via a closed Facebook group, helping to provide qualitative context for the accelerometer’s quantitative data. Dr. Janssen would produce visualizations of the data collection from the accelerometer for the parents so they could understand how their children measured up against the WHO’s daily activity guidelines.

In the podcast, Dr. Janssen revealed that one of the more challenging aspects of getting the project off the ground – and the one she would approach differently next time – was recruitment. At first her team distributed flyers at nursery schools, but participation lagged until she began to hold face-to-face presentations. “People like to see your face,” she noted, especially when it comes to research that will involve their children.

Using NVivo for Qualitative Thematic Analysis

This project generated both qualitative and quantitative data. For the qualitative data, Dr. Janssen and her team opted to use a thematic analysis approach developed by Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke and described in a 2006 paper for Qualitative Research in Psychology.

“What most people . . . know NVivo for is the coding,” said Dr. Janssen. “It makes it super simple to keep track of all your coding and to narrow it all down.” Dr. Janssen was also impressed by NVivo’s ability to create cases for each study participant. “[T]hat was really useful when we were working with those that met the guidelines versus those that didn't meet the guidelines. Being able to categorize them that way and then asking NVivo, ‘Okay, now show me what's coming out [thematically] in each of these groups,’ has been super helpful.”

Learn more about Dr. Braun’s and Dr. Clarke’s approach in our webinar Introduction to Thematic Analysis, and catch Dr. Braun’s keynote presentation at the 2024 Lumivero Conference.

Research Study Results from Conducting Mixed Methods Research

Quantitative data from the accelerometers showed that while most children were getting enough sleep during the night, very few of them were meeting physical activity guidelines. Additionally, most children were engaging with screens for much more than the recommended maximum of 60 minutes per day. Through her ARC, Dr. Janssen was able to glean insights into the barriers that prevented parents from building more activity into their children’s days.

First, there was the weather: Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is prone to rainy, blustery weather. Getting outside during the winter months can be particularly challenging: while the UK doesn’t often experience snow or extreme cold, its northern latitude means that there can be just seven hours of daylight in December. Active rainy-day options such as indoor play facilities or swimming pools were often unavailable to the families in the study. Either such amenities did not exist in their communities, or their cost made them unaffordable.

Next, Dr. Janssen  found that many parents were not aware of current research around the impact of excessive screen time on brain development. Some parents expressed a belief that screens gave children access to educational videos or games. Others had grown up with video games themselves and did not see the harm in letting their kids play them – or in playing along with them.

Finally, there were policy issues that impacted children’s access to safe physical activity. For example, some children’s nursery schools were not taking their classes outside during the day, even though this is required by law. Furthermore, according to the BBC, Scotland is currently facing a budget shortfall of £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion). This is likely to result in further cuts to early years programs, as well as public transportation and other programs that support low-income families.

Recommendations for Improvement

Dr. Janssen’s team has taken a multi-pronged approach to helping families understand how to help their young children become more active during the day. First, she says she has tried to encourage a shift in thinking about the weather: sometimes it’s worth going out in the rain to get a half-hour of activity, even if it means wet clothes. Next, she has provided parents with research about the impact of screen time on brain development to help them better understand how even educational content should be limited to the recommended 60 minutes.

The heavier lift is the policy side. “I got quite annoyed when I heard parents speak about having to change nursery [schools], because the nursery [school] isn’t taking kids outside,” Dr. Janssen said. She explained that the government needs to do more to enforce activity guidelines for early-years programs and to improve its support for low-income parents. Providing free or low-cost indoor activities for young children – or developing policies that help parents spend more time with their children outside of working hours – can make a difference to the health of these young people in the future.

Where to Find Dr. Janssen’s Research

So far, Dr. Janssen has produced a paper about the research methods used in the study. Barriers and Facilitators of Physical Activity, Sedentary and Sleep Behaviours in 3 to 4-Year-Old Children from Low-Income Families: A Study Protocol appeared in the Journal of Activity, Sedentary and Sleep Behaviors in November 2023. Dr. Janssen is in the process of producing a final paper for publication later this year. She’ll also present her qualitative and quantitative research at the 2024 Lumivero Conference.

Learn more about this research by listening to the full podcast episode.

Fund Your Research – Apply for Lumivero’s 2024 Early Career Researcher Grant!

Lumivero’s Research Grant for Early Career Researchers will award $20,000 in funding over two years to an early career researcher making a positive impact in the world with a research project that uses NVivo, Citavi, or XLSTAT, shows promise and a contribution to knowledge, and a commitment to our theme: Research Excellence that Impacts Our World.

LEARN MORE

Use Mixed Methods Design in Your Research with NVivo QDA Software

Do more with your quantitative and qualitative data and answer your research questions by using NVivo, the leading qualitative data analysis software (QDA software) for your mixed methods approach.

NVivo Demo Request

magnifierarrow-right
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram