Date of Conferral





Public Health


Jennifer Oliphant


Physical inactivity is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, increasing risk for noncommunicable disease and compromised physical, social, and mental health. However, fewer than 20% of U.S. youth meet physical activity guidelines; youth with disabilities are even less active. Physical activity is influenced by personal, family, social, organizational, community, and environmental factors acting within a social-ecological framework. To what extent is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which social and ecological factors are associated with participation of youth with cerebral palsy in physical activity. The research design was a cross-sectional, quantitative approach with online survey methodology employing validated questionnaires using a nationally representative sample of 465 dyads of parents and youth with cerebral palsy age 12-17 years. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, latent constructs explained 5-88% of the variance in the indicators. Using structural equation modeling, the final model explained 53.1% of the variance in participation. Physical activity stage (B = .632), activity capacity (B = .168), and parent activity level (B = .126) exhibited direct effects. Self-confidence (B = .631), physical activity stage (B = .632), persistence (B = .387), athletic competence (B = .348), activity capacity (B = .256), and positive friendship experiences (B = .215) exhibited the strongest total effects. The findings support the importance of personal, family, and social factors for increasing participation in a health behavior that promotes health and well-being in a population at risk for social exclusion, stigma, and chronic health conditions.