The self-regulation of health-related goals in young adults : a qualitative exploration
Terblanche, Margaretha Elizabeth
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In this study it is argued that quality of health is predominantly influenced by health behaviour and health-risk behaviour. Self-regulation as an important factor in health and health-risk behaviour was operationalised by three phases, namely goal establishment, goal execution and self-reflection and adjustment. In addition, mindfulness is an important metacognitive skill applied throughout the process of self-regulation. The lack of research on self-regulation and health behaviour, especially with reference to South African youth and young adolescents is surprising. Health programmes seem to pay insufficient attention to the enhancement of self-regulatory skills in preventing health risk behaviour. Another limitation is the lack of qualitative data regarding self-regulation research. 'This study aims to explore the self-regulation of health-related goals in a group of young adults. Insight to this process could contribute to the development of more appropriate health promoting programmes. A qualitative research design with content analysis as data analysis technique was applied. An availability sample of 92 participants, aged between 18 and 30, completed self-compiled questionnaires on health-risk behaviour and self-regulation. Results indicate a high prevalence of health risk behaviour, supporting other South African findings. Various differences were found between participants engaging in high risk behaviour and those with low risk behaviour with reference to the phases and processes of self-regulation. The high risk group's goal setting seems to be problematic as it does not address identified high risk behaviours. This may be as a result of insufficient mindfulness in that they are ignorant of their health risk behaviour and its implication or alternatively, that they attempt to avoid the risk of failure. In addition, the high risk group is more dependent on external motivation regarding health-related goals and is, therefore, more influenced by controlled regulation. In contrast, the low risk group more often relies on individual personal resources as a source of motivation for their health related goals. Furthermore, the high risk group experiences regulatory non-fit as 'their actions were more often inappropriate. No major differences were found between the groups concerning stumbling blocks and self-observation. Participants in the high risk group evaluate their performance less favourably and are more likely to experience negative emotions in the face of failure compared to participants in the low risk group. When taking the whole self-regulation process into account, it can thus be concluded that participants of the high risk group have poor self-regulation in relation to participants in the low risk group. In general, the findings of this study support the findings of other researchers, confirming the importance of self-regulation in health and health-risk behaviour. The main implication is that there should be a much stronger emphasis on self-regulatory skills in health promotion and illness prevention programmes. Certain limitations of this study were also taken into account. Future studies should consider the role of individuals' risk perceptions with regard to the goal establishment phases as well as the manner in which individuals deal with stumbling blocks in the action phase. Finally, the way in which self-regulation as a dynamic process should be accurately assessed is still not clear. As this study is one of the first to explore self-regulation from a qualitative perspective, future studies could shed more light on the usefulness of other qualitative and even mixed method designs.
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