Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Social identity theory explores the process of self-identifications based upon perceived shared commonalities with others in order to positively affiliate with group membership and accounts for inter-group and intra-group behaviors (Deaux, 2001; Hogg & Abrams, 1999; Tajfel, 1982). Social identity is also dependent upon environment and situation dynamics (Turner, 1982). African American females are at risk for high levels of physical inactivity. Researchers have suggested the use of frameworks that move investigations beyond assessing social aggregates such as race and gender to understand why this is true. Racial identity, gender-role identity, and exercise identity (derived from social identity theory) provide a framework to go beyond categorical labels. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore intersections among racial identity, gender-role identity, and exercise identity on the physical activity participation of African American females, extending the current research regarding determinants of physical activity participation for African American females. The first study used quantitative methods to investigate relationships among racial identity, gender-role identity, exercise identity, physical activity participation, and perceived social support within an African American college female sample population. Results indicated females who exercised more often had a stronger sense of exercise identity, displayed masculine gender-role identity and had higher perceived levels of social support. Perceived friend social support predicted exercise identity and frequency of physical activity participation. Study two qualitatively explored the intersection of racial identity, gender-role identity, and exercise identity of African American females who were considered regular exercisers by running group affiliation. The following themes emerged: 1) group membership advantages; 2) exercise as a catalyst for change; 3) perceived obstacles to physical activity. The findings indicated that exercise identity is more salient than racial and gender-role identities. Perceived cultural barriers such as hair, food, and body image had a diminished affect when exercise was accepted as part of identity. Taken together, findings support the conclusion that a focus on developing a strong exercise identity through cultural lenses of other identities such as race and gender is an important factor in efforts to promote physical activity in diverse populations.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Solmon, Melinda



Included in

Kinesiology Commons