Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology

Document Type



Physical activity (PA) participation has been linked to broad health benefits including reduced risk of chronic diseases (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2008). PA participation is important for youth as it sets the precedent for continued engagement and improved long-term health. Nonetheless, adolescents have some of the lowest rates of physical activity, and subsequently obesity rates in youth have exponentially increased in the past few decades (CDC, 2013). Therefore, determining predictors of PA for adolescents is of vital importance. Many studies focus on barriers to PA in youth, but few include both facilitating and inhibiting factors of youth PA participation. The existing literature on general predictors of youth PA focuses on various internal (e.g., depressive symptoms, anxiety, self-esteem, chronic pain, Body Mass Index) and external (e.g., parental behaviors, risky behaviors) predictors. Some research suggested that internal predictors are more consistent predictors of youth PA, when compared to external predictors. The current study investigated internal and external predictors (as well as both facilitators and inhibitors) of PA in youth in two separate samples. The Study 1 analysis examined correlations between several variables (i.e. depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, negative self-esteem, family cohesion, rule-breaking behavior, having aches and pains, time with friends, and being overweight) and PA in youth in a small sample. The Study 2 analysis involved a national database. Proposed analyses involved conducting hierarchical ordinal logistic regressions using PA as an outcome variable to determine predictors associated with increased likelihood of higher levels of PA. Results of Study 1 indicated that none of eight variables in the correlations matrix were significantly correlated with mother-reported youth PA. In the Study 2, five internal variables (i.e., depressive symptoms, anxiety, self-esteem, pain, BMI) were significantly related to PA, whereas two of the three external variables were significantly related to PA (i.e., time with friends, mother-child relationship). In Study 2, four of the five internal predictors were significant predictors of youth PA (i.e., depressive symptoms, self-esteem, BMI, and pain), whereas time with friends was the only significant external predictor of PA. Implications include determining important points of intervention to increase PA in youth.



Committee Chair

Davis, Tom