Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Denise Anderson, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Dorothy Schmalz

Committee Member

Dr. Ellen Granberg

Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Griffin

Abstract

In most western countries, obesity and sedentary behavior are a major health concern. Research demonstrates a clear connection between one’s physical and emotional health (e.g., body image) and as such, many community programs now focus on the “whole person” rather than just physical wellbeing. When looking at the population as a whole, the most health disparate group is adolescent girls. Compared to any other cohort, adolescent girls are the most sedentary, obese, and likely to suffer from psychosocial distress such as anxiety and/or depression. As a result, there is a need for further research into adolescent girls’ physical and emotional health. The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate Smart Fit Girls, a program aimed at improving adolescent girls’ health. A secondary purpose of this study was to better understand how social comparison and mother/daughter relationships influence adolescent girls’ health. Quantitative (surveys), qualitative (focus groups), and mixed-methods (embedded design) methodologies were used in this study. Findings indicate that 1) the Smart Fit Girls program was successful in improving participants’ body image, 2) mothers have a strong influence over their daughters’ health and while they recognize this, they do not know how to best discuss health concerns with their daughters, and 3) physical activity prototypes influence adolescent girls’ willingness to be physically active but social comparison does not influence this relationship. This study demonstrates that intentional programming can positively influence the health of adolescent girls.

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