Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Jodi Southerland

Thesis Professor Department

Community Health

Thesis Reader(s)

Dr. Lindsey King, Dr. Deborah Slawson


The purpose of the present study is to conduct a secondary qualitative analysis to examine parent, teacher, and high school adolescents’ perceptions of social support for physical activity (PA) for high schoolers in Southern Appalachia. Social support for PA is linked to higher rates of PA participation in adolescents. Parents, siblings, and peers provide key sources of support. Social support for PA may be even more important in under-resourced communities such as Appalachia, where geographic, economic, and environmental barriers negatively impact PA engagement. During 2013-2014, focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents of adolescents (n=39), high school teachers (n=38), and high school students (n=21) in six counties across rural Southern Appalachia as part of a grant-funded qualitative study to assess parental involvement strategies in school-based adolescent obesity prevention programs. We conducted a secondary analysis of the dataset from this study, focusing specifically on participants’ responses about family and peer supports for PA for adolescents. We used thematic analysis to analyze the data and develop overall themes. Four categories of social supports for PA emerged: instrumental, conditional, motivational, and informational supports. Instrumental supports included providing transportation, paying fees, enrollment in sports, and access to PA equipment at home. Performing PA with adolescents, modeling, watching/supervising, and prioritizing PA emerged as conditional supports. Several motivational supports were also identified: encouragement over life course, force, and admiration of people who are active. Participants also identified key informational supports including discussion by parents/teachers about how to be physically active, its importance and benefits and general advice/information. While some supports were widely available (e.g., equipment and encouragement), others such as transportation were limited in availability. Moreover, students highlighted being made fun of by peers when engaging in PA together as a constraint. Differences emerged in how the three groups conceptualized and attached meaning to the types of supports. While a range of social supports for PA exist for high schoolers in Southern Appalachia, supports emphasized by students, parents, and school personnel vary. These findings can be used to inform program and practice in PA research in rural Appalachia.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.