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Background: Understanding the early roots of physical activity and sedentary behaviors is critical to developing intervention programs that promote healthy lifestyle habits in infants and children. There is, however, no evidence on how these behaviors cluster and develop together during early childhood. The aim of this study was to identify single and joint longitudinal trajectories in physical activity and screen time amongst children aged 0 to 9 years, their social-demographic predictors and their prospective health-related quality-of-life and socio-emotional outcomes. Methods: Three waves of data from The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a national study tracking two cohorts every 2 years (B-cohort, 0–5 years, n = 4,164; K-cohort, 4–9 years, n = 3,974) were analysed. Growth mixture modelling was applied to longitudinal time-use diary data to identify joint trajectories in children’s physical activity and screen time over Waves 1–3. Key socio-demographic variables measured at Wave 1 were used to predict membership in different trajectories. The prospective consequences (at Wave 3) of time-use trajectories on health-related quality-of-life and socio-emotional outcomes were assessed. Results: Three physical-activity/screen-time trajectories were identified for both cohorts: Cluster-A—children who maintained low levels of physical activity and screen time (∽50% of the sample), Cluster-B—children who progressively increased physical activity and maintained low screen-time levels (∽25%), and Cluster-C—children who maintained low physical-activity levels and increased screen time (∽25%). Children in Cluster-B experienced the best health-related quality-of-life and socio-emotional outcomes, while those in Cluster-C experienced the worst. Children who were female, Indigenous, from non-English-speaking backgrounds, not living with two biological parents, in more affluent households and neighbourhoods, without siblings and with parents with poor mental health were at greater risk of falling into Cluster-A or Cluster-C. Conclusion: Our findings identified which children are most at-risk of falling into time-use trajectories that lead to poor health-related quality-of-life and socio-emotional outcomes later in life, increasing our ability to monitor, detect and prevent these suboptimal behaviours prior to their onset.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.