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The physical self in adolescent girls: links to smoking, dietary restraint, physical activity and body anxiety over time



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This research project assessed both the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationship between physical self-perceptions and physical activity, cigarette smoking, restrained eating, and social physique anxiety in adolescent females by tracking these variables over one year. Participants included 641 grade ten females from various urban and rural high schools who completed the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Adolescents (PAQ-A), the Modifiable Activity Questionnaire for Adolescents (MAQ-A), the Smoking Behaviour Questionnaire, the Dutch Eating Behavior Restraint Scale, the Social Physique Anxiety Scale (SPAS), the What I am Like Questionnaire, and the Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP). Reported leisure physical activity varied greatly across the sample, but was averaged at 8.5 hours/week. Although 65% of the participants had tried smoking, only 29% were currently active smokers. Of current smokers, 53% reported smoking for weight control to some degree. Smoking for weight control was not related to body mass index, however, smokers who reported smoking for weight control were more likely to report engaging in eating restraint. Levels of eating restraint and social physique anxiety were moderate across the group. Physical activity levels declined from year one to year two, cigarette smoking and social physique anxiety increased, while levels of eating restraint did not change. Cross-sectional analysis revealed that negative global self-esteem and physical self-perceptions were related to physical activity, cigarette smoking, restrained eating, and social physique anxiety. Longitudinal analysis revealed similar findings, perception of body emerged as a significant predictor of eating restraint and social physique anxiety and the perception of condition was predictive of physical activity. No relation was found between the increase in smoking and changes in global or physical self-esteem. These findings suggest that perceptions of the physical self, especially that of the body, are an important component for understanding the adoption of specific health related behaviours in adolescent females. This study also found that the multidimensional hierarchical structure of self-esteem was supported for both cross sectional and longitudinal analysis and that the health related behaviours were weakly interrelated. Note:Pages 80, 100, 101, and 133 are missing in the original thesis.





Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Kinesiology


College of Kinesiology



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