Does your child value physical activity? Part One

Does your child value physical activity? Part One

-Andrew Kantor, M.S. Sport Psychology, Athletic Revolution Coach

Hey everybody! I hope you’re all having a fantastic week. Me? Oh, I’m doing super. The football season has just started, and you know what that means: FANTASY FOOTBALL!!! I’ve been told I mistakenly think of the Fantasy Football season whenever I hear the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”; I still think I’m right.

Well, that’s enough with the details of my personal life. Today I wanted to talk to you all about some reasons why people are physically active, with a particular emphasis on youth and adolescents. To do this, I’d like to review the research article “Exploring Self-Perceptions and Social Influences as Correlates of Adolescent Leisure-Time Physical Activity,” written by Sabiston & Crocker (2008). What are their first names? Good question; I have no clue.

First off, in order to influence and promote physical activity within any age group or demographic, we must first know why these people become physically active. Past research has found some key correlates of physical activity engagement:

  • Perceptions of competency: This is how well you think you can perform a task; it is similar to self-efficacy.
  • Enjoyment and interest: Pretty straight forward; whether or not you enjoy the activity.
  • Beliefs and behaviors of significant others: What your peers or parents think and believe.

However, there is limited evidence of the simultaneous effects of all of these factors.

To the rescue comes the Expectancy-Value (EV) Model!

The EV model allows us to examine how these relationships occur simultaneously.

In the EV model, an individual’s behavior is directly a function of his or her context-specific personal efficacy expectations and subjective values (Eccles, 1983; Eccles & Wigfield,1995; Wigfield et al., 1997). Well what the heck does that mean?

Basically it means that, at any given moment, the factors that lead to someone’s behavior are their beliefs about their ability to successfully complete the behavior (personal efficacy or competence expectations) and the values of the behavior that are important to that person (subjective values). So, the reason I play fantasy football is I think I’ve got a good chance of being awesome at it (personal efficacy expectations); I also place value on having fun, and I believe playing will be very fun for me (subjective values).

Let’s define the subjective values that I mentioned. There are 4 components that make up subjective value. Seeing as we’re in Texas and most of you are likely Cowboys fans, I’ll use Tony Romo as an example. **Disclaimer, I am a 49ers fan**

First, we have interest value. This is the enjoyment an individual gains from engaging in a behavior. In this example, the behavior that Tony chooses to engage in is throwing interceptions. On any given Sunday, you can see Tony celebrate throwing yet another interception, and he regularly seems to be having a grand ‘ol time.


Next is attainment value, which is the importance of doing well and engaging in a behavior. When it comes to throwing interceptions, Tony places this at the top of his priority list, as he does it on a weekly basis.


Third is utility value, which is the usefulness of a task or behavior to one’s sense of self and future goals. If Tony’s goal is to be loathed by his fan base, throwing interceptions will be very useful in achieving that goal. **cue Cowboys fans nodding their heads**


And finally, there are relative costs. These are the negative components of engaging in a behavior, including financial, time, opportunity, and effort costs. Tony may not get paid much longer if he continues throwing interceptions. However, we could have easily used Jerry Jones and his inability to make proper personnel decisions as the example, so I think Tony’s job is safe.

So what are some factors that can influence competence and subjective value? Well, social influences can have a major effect on these, and these can be seen as influences from one’s peers or parents.

Some ways that one’s peers or parents can be influences are (yes, it’s another list):

  1. Role model behavior-In the case of physical activity, this would just be Johnny’s parents or peers engaging in physical activity.
  2. Emotional support and encouragement: this would be Jimmy’s friends or family cheering him on while he exercises or plays sports.
  3. Others’ beliefs: For example, just knowing that playing sports was important to Jenny’s parent(s) may influence her to engage in physical activity.

According to the EV model, the previous factors can affect competence and beliefs, which in turn influence physical activity. However, this relationship is elusive.

Previously, the EV model has been used to examine academic achievement behaviors, such as trying hard in school and getting good grades.

Also, competence beliefs, as well as some factors of subjective value, correlate with time spent by adolescents in sport.

The EV model was also partially supported in competitive high school sports, and competence beliefs and interest value were identified as important correlates of children’s leisure activity.

However, there is a gap; not much research has been done in examining older adolescents and how or why they participate in physical activity.

Finally, there are some gender differences when it comes to competence and values.

Some evidence suggests that males receive more parental support for PA than females.

Also, males are more likely to participate and spend more time in physical activity, and it is more important for males to be competent.

I’m pretty sure you’re getting bored of me already, so let’s cut it off there. Next week, I’ll tell you about what the study found and how to apply that information.