The role of perceived control in the theory of planned behaviour in a physical activity context with children
thesisposted on 19.11.2010 by Martin S. Hagger
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A series of studies aimed to examine the role of perceived behavioural control in Ajzen's (1985) Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) in a physical activity context with children aged 12-14 years. A broader, more differentiated role of perceived control was envisaged in the theory based on the conceptualisation of control and perceived competence put forward by Skinner (1995). The first two studies examined the role of control with respect to the TPB model variables and past behaviour. Study 1 investigated the relations between intention, behaviour, attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control in 181 children. It was hypothesised that attitude, perceived control and subjective norms would be related to intention and intention to behaviour. In addition, it was hypothesised that the covariation between control and attitude observed in previous studies could be better explained by the specification of a direct path between perceived control and attitude. Path analysis confirmed the theoretical relations between the TPB variables and, uniquely, the existence of a perceived control- attitude path forming a triadic arrangement with attitude and intention. It was concluded that perceived control governed two routes to the formation of intentions: a direct, spontaneousp ath and an indirect, more deliberative path via attitudes. This relationship was subsequently confirmed in a sample of 382 children in Study 2 using latent measures of attitude and control. The study demonstrated that direct attitude-intention and attitude-behaviour paths regulated the intention-behaviour relationship and attenuated the control -intention relationship to zero. Further, past behaviour predicted control but not intentions or prospective behaviour suggesting that perceived control includes judgements regarding previous control experiences. Since Studies I and 2 indicated the diverse influence of control on the TPB variables, Study 3 diversified the perceived control variable according to Skinner's (1995) conceptualisation of control. This was achieved through the inclusion of a measure of self-efficacy alongside perceived control in a study of 1152 children. The resulting non-standard model using both latent and observed measures, indicated that self-efficacy regulated the control-intention relationship, while control remained an indirect predictor of intention via attitudes. It was concluded that the spontaneous pathway was largely due to the aspects of control related to past experiences of confidence or self-efficacy. This justified the diversification of the perceived control variable and indicated that when young people consider the control they have over certain behaviours, they refer to a number of different perceptions. To further examine the role of perceived control and examine the origins of the cognitive variables in the TPB, Study 4 examined perceived control from a human needs perspective in 1088 children. The measures included more general, domain-specific rather than behaviour- specific measures of perceived control and locus of causality (PLOC). The latter variables represented the human needs for competence and autonomy, which are hypothesised to be motivational in nature (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Results indicated that relative autonomy predicted perceived behavioural control and attenuated the control-intention relationship to zero. This suggested that autonomy was the driving force behind the process of intern ali sation, in which a person assimilates a behaviour by continual competence satisfying experiences. A final study aimed to confirm the triadic relationships between attitude, perceived control and intention in the TPB by a cumulative analysis of these relationships using the data from Studies 1-4. Meta-analytical techniques were used to produce cumulative correlations corrected for measurement and sampling error between the TPB relationships. Results indicated that the variation in the correlations may have been due to more than just sampling error, indicating the existence of moderating variables. A path analysis using these correlations indicated that the atti tude- intention relationship in the triadic arrangement tended to be attenuated by the control-intention relationship. This series of studies indicate that Perceived behavioural control is an important and diverse predictor of intention in the TPB. In particular, control was shown to be an antecedent of attitudes as well as a direct predictor of intentions and that spontaneous intention formation from control perceptions may have been due to self-efficacy beliefs and past behavioural beliefs being encompassed by perceived control. Finally, the adoption of self-determination theory indicated that more general motives for engaging in physical activity behaviour were antecedent variables of control, attitudes and intention from a social cognitive approach. Such theories helped interpret the relationships in the TPB, in particular the role of control as an important variable in the process of internalisation.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences