Guided goal setting: Effectiveness in a dietary and physical activity intervention with low-income adolescents

Mical Kay Shilts, Marcel Horowitz, Marilyn S. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Objective: Determining the effectiveness of the guided goal setting strategy on changing adolescents' dietary and physical activity self-efficacy and behaviors. Design: Adolescents were individually assigned to treatment (intervention with guided goal setting) or control conditions (intervention without guided goal setting) with data collected before and after the education intervention. Setting: Urban middle school in a low-income community in Central California. Participants: Ethnically diverse middle school students (n = 94, 55% male) who were participants of a USDA nutrition education program. Intervention: Driven by the Social Cognitive Theory, the intervention targeted dietary and physical activity behaviors of adolescents. Main Outcome Measures: Dietary self-efficacy and behavior; physical activity self-efficacy and behavior; goal effort and spontaneous goal setting. Analysis: ANCOVA and path analysis were performed using the full sample and a sub-sample informed by Locke's recommendations (accounting for goal effort and spontaneous goal setting). Results: No significant differences were found between groups using the full sample. Using the sub-sample, greater gains in dietary behavior (p <.05), physical activity behavior (p <.05), and physical activity self-efficacy (p <.05) were made by treatment participants compared to control participants. Change in physical activity behaviors was mediated by self-efficacy. Conclusions and Implications: Accounting for goal effort and spontaneous goal setting, this study provides some evidence that the use of guided goal setting with adolescents may be a viable strategy to promote dietary and physical activity behavior change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Adolescents
  • Guided goal setting
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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