Research has shown that there is a decrease in physical activity levels during early adolescence, especially for girls. Previous studies have shown that the social physique anxiety (SPA) may be a controlling factor influencing exercise motivation and engagement in this behavior; however, the potential role that puberty plays in this decrease has not been considered until now. The objective of the present study was to examine the impact of pubertal timing and pubertal tempo on SPA and exercise motivation and behavior.
Data from 328 early adolescent girls, aged between 9 and 12 at the time of joining the study, were collected in 3 waves over a 2-year period. Using structural equation modeling techniques, different 3-time-point growth models were estimated to examine if earlier maturing and compressed maturing in girls had differential effects on SPA and exercise motivation and behavior.
The results from growth analyses suggest that early maturing (according to all the pubertal indicators considered, except menstruation) tends to translate into (1) an increase in SPA levels and (2) a decrease in exercise - in the latter case, by reducing self-determined motivation. However, no differential effects from any of the pubertal indicators were found for compressed maturing in girls.
These results highlight the need for increased efforts toward developing programs aimed at helping early maturing girls to cope with the challenges of puberty with a particular focus on SPA experiences and exercise motivation and behavior.
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Published online: March 17, 2023
Accepted: January 21, 2023
Received: August 3, 2022
Publication stageIn Press Corrected Proof
Conflicts of interest: The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.
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