Adolescent motivation for healthy behaviors: a theory-based enhanced health curriculum for adolescents
Adolescence is a period marked by significant physical, developmental, cognitive, and social changes, all of which contribute to health concerns for teens. A steady rise in life expectancy over the past two centuries is potentially diminishing due to the increase in prevalence, severity, and consequences of obesity in children and adolescents related to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Health behaviors are often established during childhood and adolescence that continue into adulthood. The development and integration of healthy lifestyle behaviors are vital through adolescence. Self-determination theory (SDT) offers a theoretical framework for attempting to understand individual differences in motivation and behavior. Recent studies have primarily focused on how adolescents make choices related to eating behaviors, physical activity, and self-care habits, and how the resultant behaviors are measured. Participants in this study were 63 healthy adolescents enrolled in 9th grade health class. All participants provided baseline data at Time 1 and again following the five-week pretest posttest intervention study at Time 2. This study examined the utility of SDT in the development of the Adolescent Intrinsic Motivation, a healthy lifestyle behavior intervention, using the tenets of SDT to explain healthy lifestyle motivational beliefs in adolescents, along with healthy lifestyle behaviors and knowledge. The AIM intervention study introduced basic health recommendations to adolescents in an autonomy-supportive environment, which has been shown to encourage the adolescent to make healthy behavior choices based on their own interest and enjoyment. Preliminary effects of the study indicated that participants receiving the AIM intervention demonstrated significant differences in motivational beliefs, healthy lifestyle knowledge, as well as healthy lifestyle behaviors from Time 1 (baseline) to Time 2 (post-intervention). Results of this study provide support for the use of SDT to address the competence, relatedness, and autonomy of adolescents in the development of health education material. Testing this intervention in a larger, random sampling of schools within the state, or even in more than one state, with a three- or six-month follow-up would be useful in determining the longer-term effects of the intervention.