Adolescent girls’ perceptions of their physical activity behaviors and social environment.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Karen J. Murphy (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Diane Gill

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore how social relationships and environmental settings impact physical activity attitudes and behaviors for adolescent girls. Guided by a social ecological framework and following a phenomenological interpretive tradition, focus group interviews were conducted with 32 adolescent girls (17 African American, 15 Caucasian) between the ages of 11 and 13 who attended public middle schools.

Adolescent girls indicated that parents and peers play a significant role in shaping their physical activity behaviors as does the physical and social environments in which they live. Themes that emerged from the analyses of data include (a) differing conceptualizations of physical activity, (b) parents and peers as facilitators of activity, (c) lack of girls’ active space in school and neighborhood environments, and (d) policy restrictions on girls’ access to physical activity time.

African American girls reported conceiving of physical activity as unstructured play, often outside, where as White girls indicated they considered physical activity to be closely related to adult-directed, organized sport. Girls described a desire to engage in more physical activities with the mothers and other female relatives. A lack of playground space at school and unsafe community environments hindered the amount of activity in which girls engaged. Educational policies that prevent middle school girls from participating in school sport programs, as well as restricting recess and lunch periods to inside spaces impeded access to desired physical activity outlets by middle school girls in this study. Findings support previous research and extend understanding of girls’ perceptions of physical activity by allowing girls to voice their opinions and concerns.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Adolescent Girls, Focus Group, Perceptions, Physical Activity, Qualitative Methods, Social Environment
Teenage girls $x Exercise $x Social aspects.
Teenage girls $x Exercise $x Attitudes.
Parent and child.
Teacher-student relationships.

Email this document to