Purpose: This longitudinal study investigated gender-specific changes in physical activity beliefs and behaviors across the elementary to junior high school transition.
Methods: Physical activity beliefs and behaviors were measured in a cohort of 132 racially diverse youth during the year prior to and following the transition. Questionnaires assessed variables hypothetically linked to activity. Physical activity was monitored with the Child/Adolescent Activity Log.
Results: Gender differences in physical activity beliefs emerged. Across the transition, boys reported decreased efficacy, social support, and expectations (norms) to be physically active. Although girls also reported decreased social support for physical activity, they further reported exposure to fewer active role models and were less likely to perceive that the benefits of regular activity out-weighed the barriers following the transition. Gender differences in activity levels were apparent, with girls being less active than boys. Despite changes in physical activity beliefs across the school transition, no significant changes in actual level of activity occurred over this period. Although beliefs were significantly related to behaviors in the domain of physical activity, pretransition activity level was the best predictor of posttransition activity level.
Conclusions: These data indicate that physical activity beliefs of adolescents change over the school transition. These changes are significantly, but not highly, related to level of physical activity. Future research should explore the influences of activity-related affect and social and physical contexts on physical activity across adolescence.