Open Access
DiNallo, Jennifer Marie
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 25, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Danielle Symons Downs, Dissertation Advisor
  • Danielle Symons Downs, Committee Chair
  • Leann L Birch, Committee Member
  • J Douglas Coatsworth, Ph D, Committee Member
  • Steriani Elavsky, Committee Member
  • pregnancy
  • motherhood
  • exercise
Significant life events such as pregnancy and motherhood may place women of the childbearing age at elevated risk for low levels of exercise behavior, and in turn, may negatively impact the long-term health of both mother and child. Little is known, however, about how to positively influence exercise motivation and behavior of pregnant women with and without other children. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation was to: (1) examine how changes in exercise attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, intention, and behavior from the first to second and the second to third pregnancy trimesters varied by motherhood status; and understand the impact of selected external factors on the TPB variables and exercise behavior across motherhood status groups; and (2) prospectively examine the moderating influence of motherhood status on the associations between: a) intention and perceived behavioral control (PBC) for predicting exercise behavior, and b) attitude, subjective norm, and PBC for predicting intention from the first to the second and the second to the third pregnancy trimester. Pregnant women (N = 166; M age = 30 years; 47% with no children; 53% with one or more children) were recruited in the first pregnancy trimester. Participants completed self-reported measures of exercise attitude, subjective norm, PBC, intention, and behavior mailed to them at 12-, 22-, and 32-weeks gestation. On the 12-week survey, participants were also asked to report demographic information (e.g., age, race, and motherhood status [i.e., pregnant women with vs. pregnant women without children]), depressive symptoms, pre-pregnancy body mass index, and pre-pregnancy exercise behavior. The study findings for the first purpose indicated that there were no motherhood status differences in the changes in attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, intention, or exercise behavior from the first to the second or the second to the third trimesters. However, for all participants, attitude, subjective norm, and PBC increased from the first to the second trimester, while all constructs significantly decreased from the second to the third trimester. With respect to the second study purpose, motherhood status moderated the PBC-intention and PBC-behavior associations such that first trimester PBC influenced second trimester exercise behavior and intention and third trimester intention to a greater extent for pregnant women with children compared to those women without children. Also, second trimester intention emerged as the sole predictor of third trimester exercise behavior. This dissertation is the first to examine how the motivational determinants of exercise behavior vary among pregnant women with and without children using the TPB as a theoretical framework. The study findings illustrate the significant impact of PBC on women’s exercise behavior and intention, particularly for women with children. Future studies can use these findings to inform the design and implementation of pregnancy-related exercise interventions so that researchers and clinicians can more effectively promote exercise behavior during this transitional, yet defining, time point in women’s lives.