DADEE activity program benefits daughters

A world-first lifestyle program developed to enhance the physical and social-emotional well-being of young girls has been launched by University of Newcastle researchers.

The DADEE (Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered) program engages fathers to help instil primary school aged girls with the skills needed for a healthy life.

Research shows that more than 80 per cent of girls fail to meet physical activity recommendations and fewer than 10 per cent can adequately perform fundamental movement skills such as kicking and throwing – results that are significantly worse than for boys of the same age.

DADEE was conceived by Professor Phil Morgan, Deputy Director at UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. With funding from Port Waratah Coal Services and the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation, it will be rolled out during the the first and third school terms of 2015.

Professor Morgan believes fathers are one of the key role models and motivators in a girl’s life.

“Research has consistently demonstrated the unique and powerful influence dads can wield in shaping physical activity behaviours, learning ability, self-esteem, social skills and resilience, particularly for girls,” Professor Morgan said.

DADEE will build on results from the multi-award-winning Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids study, with a more targeted focus. Over eight weeks, fathers and daughters will attend sessions involving a range of physical activities and challenges designed to improve the fitness, confidence and physical competence of the girls, to empower them, and to optimise their social-emotional well-being.

“Research shows that girls are marginalised in home and school physical activity contexts,” Professor Morgan added. “Importantly, we also know that the father-daughter relationship is associated with significant psycho-social developmental and health outcomes. Physical activity provides a unique domain to foster this relationship.

“DADEE activities will include rough-and-tumble play and cutting-edge fundamental movement activities to develop the girls’ fitness and resilience. Fathers will also receive education on parenting practices and, in turn, improve their own levels of fitness as active and engaged role models.”

The trial will initially recruit 50 families (approximately 75 daughters aged 5-12 years) from the broader Newcastle region. All families participating in the program will receive a sports equipment pack that includes active resources to promote dad-daughter games and improve sport skills.

People can register their interest via DADEE@newcastle.edu.au or phone (02) 4921 6566.

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