Research in the sport and exercise psychology lab is focused on social relationships in physical activity and the role that they play in motivation, emotion, well-being, and adaptation to adversity. Our research is informed by theoretical and empirical work on social interactions, emotional and motivational processes, coping with stress, posttraumatic growth, and self-perceptions. We investigate these phenomena in physical activity and health behavior contexts. Depending on the nature of the research question, we employ qualitative and quantitative methods in our research.
For information on our published research, please see the Publications page. See below for a description of some of our current work.
Physical Activity-Based Positive Youth Development for Underserved Youth
In this program of research, we are examining links between participation in sport and life skills programs for underserved youth and participants' psychological, academic, and health and risk behavior outcomes. In our previous research, we have found that perceptions of self-worth, physical self-worth, social competence, and physical competence improve over the course of such programs. The social relationships participants build with other program participants and staff are associated with changes in physical activity motivation, self-esteem, hope for the future, and social competence. Some of these factors are also linked to retention in the program. We are currently examining how staff behaviors are linked with social relationships and psychosocial outcomes, and how positive youth development interventions may affect health and risk behaviors, and academic outcomes.
Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors
In this line of research we are examining the role of physical activity and social support in the lives of cancer survivors. In particular, we are interested in the role that they play in positive psychological growth and adaptation following the often traumatic experience of cancer, and in supportive health behaviors. Many of our studies have focused on group physical activity programs for breast cancer survivors, such as dragon boating teams. Our previous research has examined changes participants experience in social support and physical self-perceptions, how experiences in the program are perceived as facilitating posttraumatic growth, how social relationships and posttraumatic growth develop over the course of development of a team, and how survivors make decisions regarding joining such programs. We have also documented stressors and challenges faced by survivors in such programs, and validity of measurement instruments to assess body image and posttraumatic growth in this population. Currently, we are examining participants’ perceptions of physical activity-based groups and support groups, changes over time in social and psychological well-being, and psychosocial and fitness changes among cancer survivors in group fitness programs.
This research examines the role that physical activity plays in the life of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and is part of a larger interdisciplinary program of research examining stability, mobility, communication, and psychological well-being. Parkinson’s disease has numerous physical and psychological effects on patients, and physical activity may play a role in alleviating or helping patients cope with some of these challenges. We are examining psychological and social experiences of participants in physical activity programs and movement interventions for people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as how psychological effects of exercise are integrated with outcomes in other domains.
Movement Interventions for Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease