A goal setting approach to a healthy lifestyle in adolescent females

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


Faculty of Computing, Health and Sciences


Obesity and overweight, caused by unhealthy lifestyle behaviours such as physical inactivity and an unbalanced diet, contribute to a multitude of problems for both individuals and the community. The literature has demonstrated that risk factors that contribute to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours arise during childhood and adolescence. These behaviours lead into adulthood and the onset of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This thesis reported on the construction, implementation and exploratory evaluation of a goal setting program to help facilitate behaviour change in the areas of healthy eating and physical activity in female adolescents. Forty-two female adolescents enrolled in high school who were between 13 and 17 years of age participated in the study. Participants were split into two groups, an intervention group and a control group. Participants were educated in a goal framing technique which emphasised setting ‘approach’ over ‘avoidance’ goals, particularly in reference to living a healthy lifestyle; and they were encouraged to set goals that were moving towards success or gaining something, rather than giving up something. Both the goal setting program and the accompanying healthy lifestyle education program took an hour long each. The intervention period spanned six weeks with follow up after a further four weeks.

Dependent variables were behaviour, knowledge, Body Mass Index (BMI), self perception, exercise self efficacy and eating self efficacy. Individuals who participated in the goal setting program lost more weight (as measured by BMI), and increased their knowledge compared to those in the control group who did not set goals. Both findings ceased to be significant when age was controlled for statistically. Further exploration of the data revealed individual differences associated with culture and pre-intervention BMI evident in the goal setting group.

This research provided some support for using an aspect of goal setting (goal framing) in health behaviour modification for adolescents. Additional resources may be needed to facilitate change in the health behaviours of adolescents including ongoing support through an adolescent’s school and family, the use of motivational interviewing, and additional support for those adolescents who are already overweight.

LCSH Subject Headings

Teenage girls -- Health and hygiene.

Teenage girls -- Psychology.

Health behavior in adolescence.

Goal (Psychology)

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