A Qualitative Examination of Factors Related to the Decrease in Physical Activity Behavior in Adolescent Girls During the Transition From Primary to Secondary School

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Ann-Marie Knowles
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Ailsa Niven
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Samantha Fawkner
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Background:

Quantitative research has suggested that the decline in physical activity levels for adolescent girls is most marked during the transition from primary school to secondary school yet understanding the contributing factors for this decline may be advanced through qualitative research methods to gain an individual perspective of the girls’ school transition experience.

Methods:

This study explored factors related to the decrease in physical activity behavior in 14 adolescent girls (mean age = 13.6 ± 0.3 years) during the transition between primary and secondary school through the use of narrative interviews and interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results:

The findings suggested that a change in the environment was central to understanding the decline in physical activity levels since primary school.

Conclusions:

During secondary school, a positive environment can be created by ensuring a choice of activities in Physical Education lessons; allowing a girls-only environment, to reduce the focus on competence and competition, and recognizing the importance of social support. These could enhance self-perceptions, reduce self-presentational concerns, increase enjoyment, and subsequently reduce the decrease in physical activity behavior during this key transitional period.

Knowles is with the School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University, United Kingdom. Niven and Fawkner are with the School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

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