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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Social desirability is associated with some physical activity, psychosocial variables and sedentary behavior but not self-reported physical activity among adolescent males

Authors
item Jago, Russell
item Baranowski, Thomas
item Baranowski, Janice
item Cullen, Karen
item Thompson, Deborah

Submitted to: Health Education Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 22, 2006
Publication Date: September 20, 2006
Citation: Jago, R.P., Baranowski, T., Baranowski, J., Cullen, K., Thompson, D.J. 2007. Social desirability is associated with some physical activity, psychosocial variables and sedentary behavior but not self-reported physical activity among adolescent males. Health Education Research. 22(3):438-449.

Interpretive Summary: There has been concern that self report of behavior is largely influenced by the respondent's desire to present what they say in the best light. This has been called social desirability of response and poses severe problems for determining true relationships when one or more variables were provided by self report. Previous research has shown that psychosocial variables are more highly correlated with self-reported measures of physical activity than with objectively recorded measures. This study with Houston Boy Scouts tested whether this higher correlation with self-reported physical activity was due to social desirability of response. While social desirability of response was correlated with some of the psychosocial variables, it was not correlated with self-reported physical activity, and controlling for social desirability did not affect the strength of the relationship between the psychosocial variables and self-reported physical activity. It is still not clear why this higher correlation has been obtained.

Technical Abstract: This study examined whether controlling for social desirability improved the association between self-reported and objectively measured physical activity among adolescent males and the extent that psychosocial variables predict physical activity after controlling for social desirability. Participants (n = 447) were 10- to 14-year-old Houston Boy Scouts. Participants completed self-reports of physical activity, sedentary behavior, preferences, self-efficacy and social desirability, and wore an MTI accelerometer for 3 days. Correlations were conducted among variables. Regression models were performed to examine the relationships between objectively measured (accelerometer) and self-reported physical activity, objectively measured physical activity and psychosocial variables and self-reports of physical activity and psychosocial variables. All models controlled for social desirability. There were weak associations between self-reported and objectively measured physical activity measures that were slightly improved after controlling for social desirability. Psychosocial variables were strongly associated with self-reports of physical activity, but weakly associated with accelerometer physical activity. Social desirability was positively associated with physical activity preferences (r = 0.169) and self-efficacy (r = 0.118) and negatively associated (r = -0.158) with self-reported sedentary behavior. Differences in the strength of relationships between self-reported and objectively measured physical activity and psychosocial variables were not a function of social desirability.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014