The family is an important contributor to the cultural conditions that support health. Current challenges in family health promotion interventions include programme design that is not always guided by theory and change mechanisms. Multifaceted programmes also make it hard to examine what works for whom, given different family roles and the range of lifestyle behaviour and mechanisms examined within diverse conceptual frameworks and cultures. We performed a scoping review on the heterogeneous literature to map and categorize the models and mechanisms by which a family may promote health behaviours among its members. We searched five electronic databases and grey literature up to 2020. Publications were included if they examined health-promoting behaviours, influences at the family level, and outlined the behavioural mechanisms involved. Two hundred and forty studies were identified. Ecological systems theory, social cognitive theory, family systems theory and the theory of planned behaviour were the frameworks most widely used in explaining either study context and/or mechanism. The most frequently studied family mechanisms involved aspects of family support, supervision and modelling, while some studies also included individual-level mechanisms. Majority of the studies investigated parental influence on the child, while few studies assessed the elderly family member as a recipient or actor of the influences. Studies on African, Asian and Middle Eastern populations were also in the minority, highlighting room for further research. Improving the understanding of context and behavioural mechanisms for family health promotion will aid the development of public health policy and chronic disease prevention programmes, complementing efforts targeted at individuals.

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