Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Janet M. Kulberg


Three major hypotheses regarding physical activity, stress and self-concept in adolescent females were tested using 214 high school students as subjects. These hypotheses generated four predictions: 1) Females who are more physically active will report that experienced stressful events are less upsetting than will females participating in less activity; 2) Females who are more physically active will have higher physical ability self-concept scores than those females who are less physically active; and 3) Certain factors such as age and physical ability self-concept are more likely to result in girls' participation in physical activity; 4) Certain factors such as age and physical ability are more likely to result in girls' participation in strenuous physical activity. It was found that more physically active females did not differ from those who were less active on reactions to stressful events. Adolescents' general inexperience with major life stresses and managing emotion may decrease the chances of deriving any benefit from exercise. However, there was a significant relationship between amount of physical activity and certain aspects of self-concept, with more active females having higher self-concept scores in the areas of physical ability, math and general school. This relationship between physical activity and academics may be due to their achievement orientation or to identity formation through participation in academic and physical activities. It was also learned from the present study that the factors of physical ability self-concept, age and GPA are the most important in understanding adolescent females' participation in greater amounts of physical activity. Younger females with higher GPAs and more certainty about their physical ability skills were found to engage in more activity than their peers. These findings challenge the stereotype of the "dumb jock," a stereotype not supported by the research. Analysis of the factors contributing to females' participation in strenuous activity revealed that younger females with greater physical ability _self-concept and confidence with regard to their opposite sex relations engaged in strenuous exercise. This finding regarding the comfort with male relations speaks to the issue of society's gender roles, with adolescent females possibly restricting their interests in strenuous activity out of fear of defying society's expectations or being viewed as unattractive. The significant relationship between physical ability self-concept and participation in physical activity provides support for the multidimensional approach to self-concept. The study's limitations include generalizability only to similar samples, use of statistics analyzing relationship vs. cause and effect in addition to difficulty with adolescent self-report. The results of the present study should be considered as simply a small part of the larger body of knowledge in the area. It is hoped that the study has initiated more questions that might be answered through further investigation.



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