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DISSERTATION ABSTRACT

Determinants of physical activity and sedentary behavior among urban African American adolescents
by Arteaga, S. Sonia, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 2006

Physical activity is an important factor in the prevention of pediatric overweight. Ethnic minority adolescents tend to be less physically active and engage in more sedentary behaviors (e.g. TV watching) than white adolescents. Using the Social Cognitive Theory, the Transtheoretical Model, and Stokol’s Ecological paradigm, the present study explored determinants of behavior change for physical activity and sedentary behavior among urban adolescents. Specifically, this study longitudinally examined adolescents’ demographics, stages of change, social support, and environmental factors and their relationships with physical activity and sedentary behavior. Participants included 129 (Boys = 66, Girls = 63) primarily African American (96%) adolescents aged 11-16 (M = 13) who were recruited from an urban health center and public middle schools. Participants were part of a larger study named Challenge!, a randomized control trial of a health promotion/obesity prevention program. Measures included demographics, BMI (kg/m2) z-score adjusted for age and sex, stage of change for physical activity, stage of change for sedentary behavior, perceived family and peer social support, perceived environmental factors, and self-reported physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Physical activity and sedentary behavior were also measured using an omni-directional accelerometer worn on the ankle for 7 consecutive days. All measures were collected at two time points. Mixed-effects models were employed to examine the relationships between the predictors and the outcomes. The results revealed that boys, adolescents with lower BMI z-scores, and those who perceived more peer social support engaged in more physical activity as measured by accelerometer (all ps <.09). For sedentary behavior measured by accelerometer, older adolescents engaged in more sedentary behavior than younger adolescents (p <.05). Exploratory analyses revealed that caregivers’ perceptions of environmental factors were related to adolescents’ physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Thus, this study provides partial support to the hypotheses that demographic, psychosocial, and environmental factors play a role in the activity behaviors of adolescents. The current study provided insightful information on factors that affect physical activity and sedentary behaviors, but more work should continue to explore the complex mechanisms of change that impact adolescents’ activity levels.