Care staff intentions to support adults with a learning disability to engage in physical activity: an application of the theory of planned behaviour
Martin, Emma Lavinia
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Background: This study investigates whether the Theory of Planned Behaviour is a viable model to predict the intentions of care staff to support adults with a learning disability to take part in physical activity. Previous research has suggested that people with a learning disability take part in less physical activity than those without disabilities. Research also shows that people with a learning disability have additional health needs when compared to the general population. Some conditions affecting people with a learning disability may be prevented or alleviated by increased physical activity. People with learning disabilities are sometimes dependent on their care staff to support them to access activities, therefore it is important to include care staff in planning interventions. The principal hypothesis of this research was that the Theory of Planned Behaviour may be a useful model in predicting the intentions of staff to support service users to engage in physical activity. Method: Seventy-eight individuals who were keyworkers for adults with learning disabilities participated in this study. This study is based on the responses of these individuals as recorded on questionnaires at two distinct times. At time one, the respondents completed an adaptation of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire – Short Form (IPAQ-SF), and two questionnaires relating to the Theory of Planned Behaviour. At time two, the respondents completed a follow-up measure of physical activity using the IPAQ-SF. The questionnaires were distributed in a pencil-and-paper format, and were available online. Data were analysed using path analysis, an extension of multiple regression. Results: A number of significant relationships between variables were demonstrated by the data. Perceived behavioural control was a significant predictor both of care staff intention and of the behaviour of the service user. Attitude was also a significant predictor of care staff intention. The data did not support that intention would mediate the relationship between attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control and behaviour. Perceived behavioural control was the most significant predictor of intention and of behaviour. Discussion: Results indicate that people with a learning disability take part in less physical activity than the recommendations for health. Perceived behavioural control was the most predictive variable in this population. The clinical and theoretical implications of this are discussed.