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Focus group or individual interviews for exploring children's health behaviour: the example of physical activity

Woolley, Kay; Edwards, Kim L.; Glazebrook, Cris

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Kay Woolley

Professor of Sport, exercise and Nutrition Education

Cris Glazebrook


Background: Children's health behaviours affect their current and future health. An appreciation of children’s perceptions regarding these behaviours can inform health promotion initiatives. Focus groups and individual interviews have increasingly been used to explore health-related issues with children although the rationale for choosing any one method is not often explained and despite considerable debate about their benefits and drawbacks these methods have rarely been compared directly. This study aimed to
explore the relative merits of the two approaches when collecting information from children about their perceptions of physical activity.
Methods: Twelve children from Year 6 classes at one UK primary school were randomly allocated to an 'interview group' or a 'focus group' and asked questions about facilitators and barriers relating to their physical activity at school. Focus group interactions and interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative data were analysed using exploratory thematic analysis and subsequently content analysis was undertaken to quantify differences between the groups.
Results: Although both methods were suitable for collecting information from children about physical activity, children who were interviewed spoke on more occasions and offered more information about facilitators for physical activity. They also spoke more frequently about potentially important aspects of the school outdoor environment with regard to physical activity promotion. The focus group was more time efficient in this setting.
Conclusion: Qualitative methods for exploring health behaviours may not be equivalent and need to be chosen carefully depending on the specific research problem and practical constraints within a project.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 6, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 13, 2018
Publication Date Aug 13, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 11, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 11, 2018
Journal Advances in Pediatric Research
Electronic ISSN 2385-4529
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 2
Pages 1-10
Public URL
Publisher URL


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