The principal aim of this two-study research programme was to investigate the contribution of psychological factors to health behaviours in children, and the intention to perform them. The investigation focused on healthy eating, regular physical activity, avoiding smoking cigarettes and avoiding drinking alcohol.
The first study examined children’s individual cognitions, past behaviour and perception of their own and their parents’ health behaviours. Drawing from Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986) and the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1985), the aim of study 1 was to investigate the extent to which these psychological factors could predict children’s future intentions towards the above behaviours. The second study aimed to identify if a child’s behavioural intention was a significant predictor of their actual health behaviour. Furthermore, it aimed to develop and run a series of theoretically based intervention workshops drawing from Prospect Theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; 1982) and the Health Action Process Approach (Schwarzer, 1992) to promote health behaviours.
A cross-sectional quantitative survey design was used in the first study. Data was collected from 529 school-aged children within year groups 7 (11-12 years) and 10 (14-15 years) using an instrument specifically designed for this research, named the ‘Health Perceptions Questionnaire’. The second study employed an experimental repeated measures 2x3 factorial design. With a sub-sample of study 1 (N = 72) it investigated interactions between pre and post intentions and behaviours, and the possible effects of two framed interventions compared to a control condition.
Results from study 1 indicate that the most significant predictors of health behaviour intention are behavioural importance, past behaviour, behaviour-specific self-efficacy, attitude and outcome expectancies. Many of the study variables were found to differ between year group and gender. Study 2 revealed there were no significant differences in behavioural intentions between groups post-intervention. Moreover, a limited effect was observed in health behaviour performance with a significant interaction only found between intervention conditions in healthy eating behaviours. Significant differences were found between healthy eating and regular exercise behaviours from time 1 to time 2 of the research programme. Furthermore, behavioural intentions were found to be significant predictors of health behaviours.
|Date of Award||2006|