Background: Neglecting to take account of the underlying context or type of physical activity (PA) that underpins overall involvement has resulted in a limited understanding of adolescents' PA participation. The purpose of the present research was to identify male and female adolescents' leisure time PA patterns and examine whether psychological processes derived from self-determination theory differ as a function of the pattern of PA undertaken.
Methods: Nine hundred ninety-five students (61.2% females, 38.8% males; M age = 13.72 years, SD = 1.25) from eight secondary schools in Dublin, Ireland completed a physical activity recall 7 day diary and measures of intrinsic motivation, competence, relatedness, autonomy and autonomy support. Based on the diary five binary indicators of physical activity were derived reflecting recommended levels of MVPA on a minimum of 3 days, at least three sessions of non-organized physical activity (e.g. jog), team sport, individual sport, and organized non-sport physical activity (e.g. dance). Latent class analysis was used to identify subgroups of adolescents that engaged in similar patterns of physical activity. Profiles of physical activity participation were subsequently compared on motivational characteristics using Kruskal-Wallis tests.
Results: Latent class analysis revealed six distinct classes for girls (Organized Run/Swim & Dance/Gym; Organized Dance; Leisure Active Team Sport; Active Individual Sport; Walk/Run/Outdoor games; Non-Participation) and five for boys (Leisure Active Gym; Leisure Active Individual Sport; Active Team Sport; Active Mixed Type; Non-Participation). Significant differences were found between the classes. Girls characterized by participation in team or individual sport, and boys represented by team sport participation demonstrated significantly higher self-determined motivational characteristics relative to other profiles of physical activity.
Conclusion: This research offers a nuanced insight into the underlying type of activities that constitute overall patterns of PA among adolescent boys and girls and further reveals that psychological processes vary dependent on the profile of physical activity undertaken. The findings may be useful for informing interventions aimed at promoting physical activity among young people.
Keywords: Adolescent; latent class; motivation; physical activity; self-determination; team sport.