The Psychological Record

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 189–196 | Cite as

The Opportunity to Choose the Activity Context Does Not Increase Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity Exhibited by Preschool Children

  • Verena Boga
  • Matthew P. NormandEmail author
Original Article


Physical activity is essential for children and adults to counteract the negative health outcomes related to a sedentary lifestyle. Despite widely publicized recommendations and information about physical activity, the problem of excessive physical inactivity prevails in our society. The purpose of this study was to conduct a context functional analysis to identify outdoor activity contexts that engendered higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) using an ABAB reversal design to determine if the opportunity to choose the activity context would influence MVPA exhibited by six preschool-aged children. Results of the context functional analysis showed that fixed equipment and open space engendered highest levels of MVPA in most participants. Levels of MVPA in the reversal design indicated that choice did not significantly influence levels of MVPA and that active and sedentary choices varied between and within participants. These results suggest that related to levels of MVPA the type of outdoor activity context chosen is more important than the individual who chooses it.


Physical activity Functional analysis Choice Preference 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to report.


  1. Ackerlund Brandt, J. A., Dozier, C. L., Juanico, J. F., Laudont, C. L., & Mick, B. R. (2015). The value of choice as a reinforcer for typically developing children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48, 344–362. doi: 10.1002/jaba.199.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K. A., McIver, K. L., Dowda, M., Addy, C. L., & Pate, R. R. (2009). Social and environmental factors associated with preschoolers’ nonsedentary physical activity. Child Development, 80, 45–58. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01245.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K., McIver, K. L., Dowda, M., Almedia, J., & Pate, R. (2006). Assessing preschool children’s physical activity: An observational system for recording physical activity in children–preschool version. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 77, 167–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01245.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). How much physical activity do children need? Retrieved from
  5. Dunlap, G., DePerczel, M., Clarke, S., Wilson, D., Wright, S., White, R., & Gomes, A. (1994). Choice making to promote adaptive behavior for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 505–518. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1994.27-505.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Dyer, K., Dunlap, G., & Winterling, V. (1990). Effects of choice making on the serious problem behaviors of students with severe handicaps. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23, 515–524. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1990.23-515.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Epstein, L. H., Wing, R. R., Koeske, R., Ossip, D., & Beck, S. (1982). A comparison of lifestyle change and programmed exercise on weight and fitness changes in obese children. Behavior Therapy, 13, 651–665. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7894(82)80022-1.
  8. Epstein, L. H., Smith, J. A., Vara, L. S., & Rodefer, J. S. (1991). Behavioral economic analysis of activity choice in obese children. Health Psychology, 10, 311–316. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.10.5.311.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Piazza, C. C., Crosland, K., & Gotjen, D. (1997). On the relative reinforcing effects of choice and differential consequences. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 423–438. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1997.30-423.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Hanley, G. P., Tiger, J. H., Ingarvarsson, E. T., & Cammilleri, A. P. (2009). Influencing preschoolers’ free-play activity preferences: An evaluation of satiation and embedded reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 33–41. doi: 10.1901/jaba.42-43.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Hustyi, K. M., Normand, M. P., Larson, T. A., & Morley, A. J. (2012). The effect of outdoor activity context on physical activity in preschool children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 401–405. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2012.45-401.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Larson, T. A., Normand, M. P., Morley, A. J., & Hustyi, K. M. (2014a). The role of the physical environment in promoting physical activity in children across different group compositions. Behavior Modification, 38, 837–851. doi: 10.1177/0145445514543466.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Larson, T. A., Normand, M. P., Morley, A. J., & Miller, B. G. (2013). A functional analysis of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in young children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 199–207. doi: 10.1002/jaba.8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Larson, T. A., Normand, M. P., Morley, A. J., & Miller, B. G. (2014b). Further evaluation of a functional analysis of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in young children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47, 219–230. doi: 10.1002/jaba.127.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Larson, T. A., Normand, M. P., & Hustyi, K. M. (2011). Preliminary evaluation of an observation system for recording physical activity in children. Behavioral Interventions, 26, 193–203. doi: 10.1002/bin.332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Peterson, C., Lerman, D. C., & Nissen, M. A. (2016). Reinforcer choice as an antecedent versus consequence. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. doi: 10.1002/jaba.284.Google Scholar
  17. Reilly, J. J., & Kelly, J. (2011). Long-term impact of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence on morbidity and premature mortality in adulthood: Systematic review. International Journal of Obesity, 35, 891–898. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2010.222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Romaniuk, C., & Miltenberger, R. G. (2001). The influence of preference and choice of activity on problem behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 3, 152–159. doi: 10.1177/109830070100300303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Samaha, A. L. (2002). Instant data for PC (Version 1.1) [Computer software]. Gainesville: University of Florida.Google Scholar
  20. Tandon, P. S., Saelens, B. E., & Christakis, D. A. (2015). Active play opportunities at child care. Pediatrics, 135, 1425–1431. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Toussaint, K. A., Kodak, T., & Vladescu, J. C. (2016). An evaluation of choice on instructional efficacy and individual preferences among children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 49, 170–175. doi: 10.1002/jaba.263.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Vaughn, B. J., & Horner, R. H. (1997). Identifying instructional tasks that occasion problem behaviors and assessing the effects of student versus teacher choice among these tasks. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 299–312. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1997.30-299.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. World Health Organization. (2014). Physical activity. Retrieved from
  24. Zerger, H. M., Normand, M. P., Boga, V., & Patel, R. R. (2016). Adult attention and interaction can increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in young children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 49, 449–459. doi: 10.1002/jaba.317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of the PacificStocktonUSA

Personalised recommendations