Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mary Peterson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

William Buhrow, Psy.D.


Adolescents’ transition into adulthood often coincides with significant developmental change processes. Behavioral patterns established during this period can determine risk and quality of life trajectories (Ben-Shlomo & Kuh, 2002, Halfon & Hochstein, 2002). Social support facilitates health behavior change and college students have ready access to peers with shared goals. In addition to social support, self-efficacy has also been associated with student health as a protective and predictive factor of healthy behaviors (Von Ah, Ebert, Ngamvitroj, Park, & Kang, 2004). Research indicates a strong relationship between self-efficacy and health behaviors; however, the direction of causality is unclear and there is little understanding of how self-efficacy changes. The current experiment examined the effects of observational learning/modeling and social support created through course-related, small groups or Accountability Teams (ATs) on individual self-efficacy and physical activity. The primary hypothesis was that individual health self-efficacy of students would interact with types of ATs, affecting students’ general self-efficacy, perception of health, and physical activity.

Participants in this experiment were undergraduate students enrolled in a lifelong fitness health course. Self-report measures of health self-efficacy (HSE), general self-efficacy, quality of life, and general health were distributed and completed by participants. Additionally, students submitted measurements of body fat percentage and physical activity (e.g., number of steps taken). Participants were assigned to support groups called “Accountability Teams” within their respective health class. Teams were assigned based on students’ HSE; each group consisted of either matched HSE (i.e., all students were low or high HSE) or mixed health self-efficacy (i.e., students in the AT were a mix of low and high HSE). The results indicate interactions in which students of Hi/Lo HSE respond differently in ATs. Overall, results suggest that LoHSE students placed in matched (homogenous) HSE groups had the best outcomes on multiple dimensions of health and health behaviors, followed by HiHSE students in mixed HSE groups. HiHSE students in matched groups has poor outcomes. The poorest outcomes were for LoHSE students in the mixed AT condition. These results are discussed within a self-efficacy frame and implications for behavioral health courses and therapy are discussed.