Exploring Interpersonal Influences on Boys' Physical Activity

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 3:45 PM

Lorraine B. Robbins, PhD, RN, FNP-BC
Henry C. Talley, PhD, MSN, CRNA
College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Learning Objective 1: summarize the extent and consequences of the overweight and obesity problem noted among youth, particularly with regard to adolescent boys.

Learning Objective 2: explore interpersonal factors associated with inadequate physical activity among adolescent boys to assist with the development of effective interventions to address the problem.

The World Health Organization identifies the increase in childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity rates as a serious public health issue. Decreased physical activity (PA) is a major contributor to weight gain. The Institute of Medicine asserts that the problem stems from social forces that promote sedentary lifestyles. Data from the U.S. 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher in 9th-grade boys than girls. Only a small percentage of 12- to 15-year-old boys adhere to national PA recommendations. Because a decline in boys’ PA begins in early middle school, interventions are needed for boys at approximately 11 years of age to help them get adequate PA.

Purpose: To explore racially diverse 6th-grade boys’ (n = 40) perceptions of  interpersonal influences on their PA, including norms or expectations of others, modeling or vicarious learning through observing others engaging in PA, and social support. Methods: Each boy participated in one of seven focus group discussions, all of which were guided by the Health Promotion Model. Results: Participants agreed that parents expected them to be physically active, but added that they did not want to be “forced” to do PA. They identified their fathers as role models of PA, but noted that not all boys have an individual who can consistently serve as a “good role model.” The most prominent form of social support was having someone do PA with them, and friends were the major source of support in this area. Parents were also reported to be the major source providing other forms of support. Participants did share, however, that they do not get the help they need or expect from individuals. 
Conclusion: The study provided valuable information for consideration by nurses when designing interventions to increase PA among boys of this age.