Voices of Children on Movement Behaviours in the Early Years: Reflections from Six Diverse Country Settings

Publication Name

International Journal of Qualitative Methods


Little is currently known about young children’s perceptions and experiences of 24-hour movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep), yet their voices play an important role in contributing to our understanding and ensuring that appropriate action is taken to promote healthy behaviours. With the release of the World Health Organisation’s Guidelines for physical activity, sedentary behaviours and sleep for children under 5 years of age, interest is gathering to examine how young children globally perceive and experience these movement behaviours in their daily lives. Conducting qualitative research with young children, however, presents a host of challenges including identifying suitable methods (interview type), developing appropriate questions (terminology, translation), building rapport (presence of caregivers/educators, incentives), and managing power dynamics, while adjusting to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Additional layers of complexity come into play when conducting an international study across culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse populations. This article describes the reflections of our research group as we considered the effect of diverse contextual influences in Australia, Chile, China, India, Morocco and South Africa, on how movement behaviours are conceptualised by young children. The complexities of working across these diverse contexts is discussed and the implications this has for methodological decisions and data interpretation are reflected upon. While the WHO Guidelines (2019) are universal, globally young children experience considerable differences in how their days are structured, along a continuum of highly supervised to independent play, with varying degrees of agency to make choices regarding their experience of movement behaviours. This suggests the need for a nuanced approach in how we further research and address movement behaviours across different country contexts, taking into consideration social and cultural norms.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)