A Meta-Analysis of the Influence of Gender on Self-Determination Theory's Motivational Regulations for Physical Activity

By Guérin, Eva; Bales, Elena et al. | Canadian Psychology, November 2012 | Go to article overview

A Meta-Analysis of the Influence of Gender on Self-Determination Theory's Motivational Regulations for Physical Activity


Guérin, Eva, Bales, Elena, Sweet, Shane, Fortier, Michelle, Canadian Psychology


Self-determination theory (SDT) is a motivation metatheory that has received significant empirical support across several contexts of human behaviour. The motivational regulations as espoused by SDT refer to differing degrees of self-determination that individuals can demonstrate toward their behaviour. In particular, the regulations have received strong empirical support as predictors of exercise. However, literature in this domain has revealed inconsistent findings with respect to gender on levels of motivational regulations. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine differences between men and women on SDT's motivational regulations for exercise using studies that employed the Behavioural Regulations in Exercise Questionnaire (E. Mullan. D. Markland, & D. K. Ingledew, 1997, A graded conceptualisation of self-determination in the regulation of exercise behaviour: Development of a measure using confirmatory factor analytic procedures. Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 23, pp. 745-752.). A total of 27 studies contributed total effect sizes (Hedge's g) of gender differences, which were computed independently for each of the regulations, as well as for a composite self-determination score. Overall, results from random-effects models revealed near-zero effect sizes, thus representing negligible differences between men and women on each of the regulations. The findings with respect to SDT's fundamental principles of universality across genders are carefully interpreted in light of existing research of gender invariance and with suggestions for future work.

Keywords: meta-analysis, gender, motivation, self-determination theory, exercise

Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a00302l5.supp

Motivation has been identified as one of the most important and consistent predictors of exercise (Lewis & Sutton, 201 1 ; Pan et al., 2(X)9). Of interest, several studies to date have found that men and women differ with respect to their motivation for exercise (Hamilton, Cox, & White, 2012; Kilpatrick, Hebert, & Bartholomew, 2005). However, this literature remains rather grey since other studies have not revealed significant gender differences (Hall, Rodgers, Wilson, & Norman, 2010; Lutz, Lochbaum, & Turnbow, 2003). Hence, the overall purpose of the present metaanalysis was to examine gender differences in exercise motivation in order to resolve these inconsistencies.

Exercise Motivation

A fair amount of early research on exercise motivation was conducted using the participation motives approach that arose in the 70s (Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). Motives, defined simply as the reasons why individuals engage in exercise (Markland & Ingledew, 2007), have been shown to differ between genders. For instance, experts agree that concerns of self-presentation, such as weight, body shape, and tone, as well as general appearance, are more commonly reported motives for exercise in women (DiBartolo & Shaffer, 2002; Tiggeman & Williamson, 2000). Likewise, Kilpatrick et al. (2005) found that several motives for exercise, namely challenge, competition, social recognition and strength/endurance, reached greater levels in men (Kilpatrick et al., 2005). However, no theoretical reasoning or implications were associated with these findings.

Indeed, a major criticism of the participation-motives literature is its largely atheoretical nature and "surface-level" analysis of motivation (Hagger & Chatzisarantis, 2008; Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). Instead, experts contend that a well-grounded theoretical framework of motivation is highly valuable in order to understand the underpinnings of this construct and to optimise its use in predicting health behaviours such as exercise (Michie et al., 2005). One theory that has received considerable empirical support is Deci and Ryan's (1985) self-determination theory (SDT; Teixeira, Carraca, Markland, Silva, & Ryan, 2012). …

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