Original article|Articles in Press

Effects of Pubertal Timing and Pubertal Tempo on Social Physique Anxiety, Self-determined Motivation, and Exercise in Early Adolescent Girls



      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.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Adolescent Health
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Brusseau T.A.
        • Fairclough S.J.
        • Lubans D.R.
        The Routledge handbook of youth physical activity.
        Routledge, London2020
        • Dumith S.C.
        • Gigante D.P.
        • Domingues M.R.
        • et al.
        Physical activity change during adolescence: A systematic review and a pooled analysis.
        Int J Epidemiol. 2011; 40: 685-698
        • Hart E.A.
        • Leary M.R.
        • Rejeski W.J.
        The measurement of social physique anxiety.
        J Sport Exerc Psychol. 1989; 11: 94-104
        • Leary M.R.
        Motivational and emotional aspects of the self.
        Annu Rev Psychol. 2007; 58: 317-344
        • Hagger M.S.
        • Stevenson A.
        • Chatzisarantis N.L.D.
        • et al.
        Physical self-concept and social physique anxiety: Invariance across culture, gender and age.
        Stress Health. 2010; 26: 304-329
        • Gillison F.B.
        • Standage M.
        • Skevington S.M.
        Relationships among adolescents’ weight perceptions, exercise goals, exercise motivation, quality of life and leisure-time exercise behaviour: A self-determination theory approach.
        Health Educ Res. 2006; 21: 836-847
        • Deci E.L.
        • Ryan R.M.
        Handbook of self-determination research.
        University of Rochester Press, Rochester NY2002
        • Ryan R.M.
        • Deci E.L.
        Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.
        Am Psychol. 2000; 55: 68-78
        • Cox A.E.
        • Ullrich-French S.
        • Sabiston C.M.
        Using motivation regulations in a person-centered approach to examine the link between social physique anxiety in physical education and physical activity-related outcomes in adolescents.
        Psychol Sport Exerc. 2013; 14: 461-467
        • Sicilia Á.
        • Sáenz-Alvarez P.
        • González-Cutre D.
        • et al.
        Social physique anxiety and intention to be physically active: A self-determination theory approach.
        Res Q Exerc Sport. 2016; 87: 354-364
        • Brunet J.
        • Sabiston C.M.
        Social physique anxiety and physical activity: A self-determination theory perspective.
        Psychol Sport Exerc. 2009; 10: 329-335
        • Cox A.E.
        • Ullrich-French S.
        • Madonia J.
        • et al.
        Social physique anxiety in physical education: Social contextual factors and links to motivation and behavior.
        Psychol Sport Exerc. 2011; 12: 555-562
        • Deardorff J.
        • Hayward C.
        • Wilson K.A.
        • et al.
        Puberty and gender interact to predict social anxiety symptoms in early adolescence.
        J Adolesc Health. 2007; 41: 102-104
        • Ullsperger J.M.
        • Nikolas M.A.
        A meta-analytic review of the association between pubertal timing and psychopathology in adolescence: Are there sex differences in risk?.
        Psychol Bull. 2017; 143: 903-938
        • Mendle J.
        • Turkheimer E.
        • Emery R.E.
        Detrimental psychological outcomes associated with early pubertal timing in adolescent girls.
        Dev Rev. 2007; 27: 151-171
        • Petersen A.C.
        • Taylor B.
        The biological approach to adolescence: Biological change and psychological adaptation.
        in: Adelson J. Handb. Adolesc. Psychol. John Wiley, New York, NY1980
        • Ge X.
        • Natsuaki M.N.
        In search of explanations for early pubertal timing effects on developmental psychopathology.
        Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2009; 18: 327-331
        • Petersen A.C.
        • Crockett L.
        • Richards M.
        • et al.
        A self-report measure of pubertal status: Reliability, validity, and initial norms.
        J Youth Adolesc. 1988; 17: 117-133
        • Sáenz-Alvarez P.
        • Sicilia Á.
        • González-Cutre D.
        • et al.
        Psychometric properties of the social physique anxiety scale (SPAS-7) in Spanish adolescents.
        Span J Psychol. 2013; 16: E86
        • Motl R.W.
        • Conroy D.E.
        Validity and factorial invariance of the social physique anxiety scale.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000; 5: 1007-1017
        • González-Cutre D.
        • Sicilia Á.
        • Fernández A.
        Hacia una mayor comprensión de la motivación en el ejercicio físico: Medición de la regulación integrada en el contexto español.
        Psicothema. 2010; 22: 841-847
        • Vallerand R.J.
        Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport and physical activity. A review and a look at the future.
        in: Tenenbaum G. Eklund R.C. Handb. Sport Psychol. 3rd ed. John Wiley, New York, NY2007: 59-83
        • Anderson C.B.
        Athletic identity and its relation to exercise behavior: Scale development and initial validation.
        J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2004; 26: 39-56
        • Burkholder G.J.
        • Nigg C.
        Overview of the transtheoretical model.
        in: Burbank P.M. Riebe D. Promot. Exerc. Behav. Chang. Older Adults Interv. With Transtheoretical Model. Springer Publishing Co., 2002: 57-84
        • Nigg C.R.
        • Harmon B.
        • Jiang Y.
        • et al.
        Temporal sequencing of physical activity change constructs within the transtheoretical model.
        Psychol Sport Exerc. 2019; 45: 101557
        • Muthén L.K.
        • Muthén B.O.
        Mplus user’s guide.
        7th ed. Muthén & Muthén, Los Angeles, CA2015
        • Wang J.
        • Wang X.
        Structural equation modeling: Applications using mplus.
        John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Hoboken, NJ2020
        • Brown T.A.
        Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research.
        2nd ed. The Guildford Press, New York, NY2015
        • O’Dea J.A.
        • Abraham S.
        Onset of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in early adolescence: Interplay of pubertal status, gender, weight, and age.
        Adolescence. 1999; 34: 671-679
        • Mendle J.
        Beyond pubertal timing: New directions for studying individual differences in development.
        Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2014; 23: 215-219
        • Stubbs M.L.
        Pubertal development and menarche.
        in: Ussher J.M. Chrisler J.C. Perz J. Routledge Int. Handb. Women’s Sex. Reprod. Heal. Routledge, London2019: 13-27
        • Mendle J.
        • Harden K.P.
        • Brooks-Gunn J.
        • et al.
        Development’s tortoise and hare: Pubertal timing, pubertal tempo, and depressive symptoms in boys and girls.
        Dev Psychol. 2010; 46: 1341-1353
        • Deardorff J.
        • Marceau K.
        • Johnson M.
        • et al.
        Girls’ pubertal timing and tempo and mental health: A longitudinal examination in an ethnically diverse sample.
        J Adolesc Health. 2021; 68: 1197-1203
        • Beltz A.M.
        • Corley R.P.
        • Bricker J.B.
        • et al.
        Modeling pubertal timing and tempo and examining links to behavior problems.
        Dev Psychol. 2014; 50: 2715-2726
        • Marceau K.
        • Ram N.
        • Susman E.J.
        Development and lability in the parent-child relationship during adolescence: Associations with pubertal timing and tempo.
        J Res Adolesc. 2015; 25: 474-489
        • Caspi A.
        • Moffitt T.E.
        Individual differences are accentuated during periods of social change: The sample case of girls at puberty.
        J Pers Soc Psychol. 1991; 61: 157-168
        • Thompson J.K.
        • Heinberg L.J.
        • Altabe M.
        • et al.
        Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment, and treatment of body image disturbance.
        American Psychological Association, Washington, DC1999