Two articles that contribute to the literature on psychosocial predictors of youths’ physical activity motivation and behavior were chosen for commentary. The first article by Fenner and colleagues showed that a family-based intervention was effective at increasing overweight adolescents’ self-determined motivation for physical activity and healthy eating and their quality of life. Significant study contributions include a multidisciplinary team of researchers, multiple pre and post intervention assessments, and a longitudinal test of mechanisms of change. Findings contribute to understanding how to provide overweight adolescents with support and choices at a critical developmental period to ultimately foster lifelong healthy behaviors. The second article by Garn and colleagues examined longitudinal relationships between physical self-perceptions and physical activity among children. Important study contributions include use of accelerometers to assess physical activity and tests of bidirectional relationships. The sample of young children aged 8–11 years also contributes to the literature. Results highlight body acceptance as an important mechanism of focus to foster children’s physical activity behavior. Overall, the highlighted studies show that parental support and positive self-perceptions are important to consider in supporting youths’ active lifestyles.
Lindsay E. Kipp
A signature characteristic of positive youth development (PYD) programs is the opportunity to develop life skills, such as social, behavioral, and moral competencies, that can be generalized to domains beyond the immediate activity. Although context-specific instruments are available to assess developmental outcomes, a measure of life skills transfer would enable evaluation of PYD programs in successfully teaching skills that youth report using in other domains. The purpose of our studies was to develop and validate a measure of perceived life skills transfer, based on data collected with The First Tee, a physical activity-based PYD program.
In 3 studies, we conducted a series of steps to provide content and construct validity and internal consistency reliability for the life skills transfer survey (LSTS), a measure of perceived life skills transfer.
Study 1 provided content validity for the LSTS that included 8 life skills and 50 items. Study 2 revealed construct validity (structural validity) through a confirmatory factor analysis and convergent validity by correlating scores on the LSTS with scores on an assessment tool that measures a related construct. Study 3 offered additional construct validity by reassessing youth 1 year later and showing that scores during both time periods were invariant in factor pattern, loadings, and variances and covariances. Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated internal consistency reliability of the LSTS.
Results from 3 studies provide evidence of content and construct validity and internal consistency reliability for the LSTS, which can be used in evaluation research with youth development programs.
Lindsay E. Kipp, Nicole D. Bolter, and Alison Phillips Reichter
Purpose: Girls participating in aesthetic sports may be at risk for disordered eating and low self-esteem. Informed by self-determination theory, the authors examined motivational climate profiles to understand how climate dimensions differentially relate to psychological needs satisfaction, self-esteem, and disordered eating. Methods: Female gymnasts, divers, and figure skaters (N = 183; mean age = 13.5) completed a survey to assess perceptions of the motivational climate, perceived sport competence, autonomy, relatedness, self-esteem, and dieting. Pubertal status was assessed to control for developmental differences. Results: Three profiles emerged: High Important Role/Low Performance, High Effort and Cooperation/High Rivalry, and Low Mastery/High Unequal Recognition and Punishment. A 3 × 2 multivariate analysis of variance revealed profile groups significantly differed on perceived autonomy, coach relatedness, and teammate relatedness. In addition, perceived competence, self-esteem, and dieting significantly differed by pubertal status. For autonomy, the High Important Role/Low Performance group reported the highest scores. For coach and teammate relatedness, the Low Mastery/High Unequal Recognition and Punishment group reported significantly lower scores than the other 2 groups. Postpubertal girls reported lower sport ability and self-esteem and greater dieting. Conclusion: Physical maturity and social context were important in explaining girls’ psychological needs satisfaction and well-being. Results add to the authors’ understanding of the complex nature and influence of the motivational climate.
Maureen R. Weiss, Alison C. Phillips, and Lindsay E. Kipp
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of an existing physical fitness program (CHAMPIONS) implemented during physical education on health-related indices (BMI percentile, waist circumference, cardiorespiratory endurance), self-perceptions, academic performance, and behavioral conduct over a school year. Students in 3 intervention (n = 331) and 3 control (n = 745) middle schools participated in the study that included assessments at pre, mid, and postintervention. Multivariate repeated measures analyses indicated that boys and girls in CHAMPIONS compared favorably (p < .0125) to Controls at postintervention on cardiorespiratory endurance, and boys significantly improved on BMI percentile from pre- to mid- and postintervention (p < .0125). Students in CHAMPIONS maintained healthy BMI percentile and waist circumference values over the year. Findings provide preliminary evidence that CHAMPIONS is effective in improving or maintaining physical health indices among middle school youth.
Maureen R. Weiss, Lindsay E. Kipp, Alison Phillips Reichter, Sarah M. Espinoza, and Nicole D. Bolter
Purpose: Girls on the Run is an after-school physical activity-based positive youth development program designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical development. We evaluated the effectiveness of the program by employing a longitudinal design and mixed methods. Methods: Girls (N = 203; aged 8–11 y) completed survey measures of positive youth development constructs (competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring), physical activity, and sedentary behavior prior to, at the end of, and 3 months after the season. Subsamples of girls, coaches, caregivers, and school personnel participated in focus groups. Coaches completed information about their team’s community impact project and number of girls who completed the season-ending 5k. Results: The full sample improved in confidence and connection, whereas girls who started below the preseason average showed the greatest gains from preseason to postseason on all measures, and scores were maintained or continued to improve at follow-up. All stakeholders in focus groups corroborated evidence of season-long improvement in social and emotional behaviors and health outcomes. Involvement in the community impact project contributed to girls’ growth in character and empathy skills. Conclusion: Findings provide empirical evidence that Girls on the Run is effective in promoting positive youth development, including season-long and lasting change in competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and physical activity, especially among girls who exhibited lower preseason scores than their peers.
Maureen R. Weiss, Lindsay E. Kipp, Alison Phillips Reichter, and Nicole D. Bolter
Purpose: Girls on the Run (GOTR), a physical activity-based positive youth development program, uses running as a platform to teach life skills and promote healthy behaviors. In this companion paper of our comprehensive project, the authors evaluated program impact on positive youth development by comparing GOTR participants to youth in other organized activities (Sport and physical education [PE]) on life skills transfer and social processes. Qualitative methods complemented quantitative data through interviews with GOTR stakeholders. Method: The participants included 215 girls in GOTR and 692 girls in the same grades and schools who did not participate in GOTR (Sport = 485; PE = 207). They completed self-report measures of life skills transfer, peer and coach relatedness, and coach autonomy support at the season’s end. GOTR subsamples of girls, coaches, caregivers, and school personnel participated in focus groups. Results: Girls in GOTR compared favorably to the Sport and PE girls on all life skills—managing emotions, resolving conflicts, helping others, and making intentional decisions—and to the PE girls for all 3 social processes. The GOTR and Sport girls did not differ on coach relatedness and autonomy support, but the Sport girls rated teammate relatedness higher. The GOTR girls’ scores on life skills transfer remained stable at a 3-month follow-up assessment. Stakeholders in the focus groups shared corroborating evidence that, through participating in GOTR, girls learn skills that generalize to school and home contexts. Conclusion: Using comparison groups, a retention assessment, and mixed methods, the findings provide evidence that GOTR is effective in teaching skills and strategies that generalize to broader life domains. The processes that explain group differences on life skills transfer include GOTR’s intentional curriculum of skill-building activities delivered by coaches within a caring and autonomy-supportive climate.