Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Valerie A. Simon

Second Advisor

Douglas Barnett


Engaging in health-related behaviors, such as exercise, healthy eating, and sleep hygiene, are associated with fewer externalizing and internalizing behavior problems and higher self-esteem, suggesting that there may be large benefits to engaging in health-related behaviors during the transitional developmental phase of adolescence (Ong, Wickramaratne, Tang, & Weissmann, 2006; Stathopoulou, Power, Berry, Smits, & Otto, 2006). The purpose of the current study was to identify key psychological processes and external factors that may boost or impede youths' motivation and engagement in health-related behaviors. Specifically, we expected that higher levels of psychological symptoms and environmental barriers will be significantly, negatively associated with motivation for and engagement in health-related behaviors, which will be positively related. We also expected that needs satisfaction will moderate the relation between risk factors and motivation to engage in healthy behaviors.

Participants were recruited at an integrative adolescent primary health clinic and two churches located in Detroit, Michigan. Data was collected at our research lab or at participants' homes. Participants consisted of 79 youth volunteers, aged 13 to 18 years, and their primary caregivers. Youth participants completed multiple questionnaires assessing their psychological symptoms, environmental barriers to healthy barriers, motivation for and engagement in healthy behaviors, and perceived needs satisfaction. Caregiver participants completed multiple questionnaires about their child's psychological symptoms, family environmental barriers to healthy behaviors, and their child's engagement in healthy behaviors.

Direct effects were found from psychological symptoms, environmental barriers, and perceived needs satisfaction to motivation and engagement in exercise, healthy eating, and sleep hygiene. These associations varied depending on which health behavior was being examined. Additionally, examinations of correlations and mean-level differences between boys and girls indicated that youth gender was a potential moderator. Significant pathways were found in the tested models for each health b, but they differentiated by gender.

Included in

Psychology Commons