Document Type




To determine whether naturally-occurring changes in children’s motives and beliefs are associated with the steep decline in physical activity observed from childhood to early adolescence.


Latent growth modeling was applied in longitudinal tests of social-cognitive influences, and their interactions, on physical activity in a large cohort of boys and girls evaluated annually between 5th and 7th grades.


Measurement equivalence of motives and beliefs was confirmed between boys and girls. After adjustment for gender and maturity differences, physical activity declined less in children who reported the least decreases in self-efficacy for overcoming barriers to activity and perceived parental support. Physical activity also declined less in students who persistently felt they had more parental and friend support for activity compared to those who reported the largest decrease in support from friends. After further adjustment for race, the decline in physical activity was less in those who had the largest decrease in perceived barriers and maintained a favorable perception of their neighborhood environment. Changes in enjoyment and social motives were unrelated to change in physical activity.


Using an objective measure of physical activity, we confirm that naturally-occurring changes in children’s beliefs about barriers to physical activity and their ability to overcome them, as well as perceptions of their neighborhood environment and social support, are concurrent with age-related declines in children’s physical activity. The longitudinal findings confirm these putative social-cognitive mediators as plausible, interacting targets of interventions designed to mitigate the marked decline in physical activity that occurs during the transition between elementary and middle schools.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Dishman, R., Dowda, M., McIver, K., Saunders, R., & Pate, R. (2017).Naturally-Occurring Changes in Social-Cognitive Factors Modify Change in Physical Activity During Early Adolescence. PLOS ONE, 12(2), e0172040.