Theories of behaviour change synthesised into a set of theoretical groupings: introducing a thematic series on the theoretical domains framework

Implement Sci. 2012 Apr 24:7:35. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-7-35.


Behaviour change is key to increasing the uptake of evidence into healthcare practice. Designing behaviour-change interventions first requires problem analysis, ideally informed by theory. Yet the large number of partly overlapping theories of behaviour makes it difficult to select the most appropriate theory. The need for an overarching theoretical framework of behaviour change was addressed in research in which 128 explanatory constructs from 33 theories of behaviour were identified and grouped. The resulting Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) appears to be a helpful basis for investigating implementation problems. Research groups in several countries have conducted TDF-based studies. It seems timely to bring together the experience of these teams in a thematic series to demonstrate further applications and to report key developments. This overview article describes the TDF, provides a brief critique of the framework, and introduces this thematic series.In a brief review to assess the extent of TDF-based research, we identified 133 papers that cite the framework. Of these, 17 used the TDF as the basis for empirical studies to explore health professionals' behaviour. The identified papers provide evidence of the impact of the TDF on implementation research. Two major strengths of the framework are its theoretical coverage and its capacity to elicit beliefs that could signify key mediators of behaviour change. The TDF provides a useful conceptual basis for assessing implementation problems, designing interventions to enhance healthcare practice, and understanding behaviour-change processes. We discuss limitations and research challenges and introduce papers in this series.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*